Wellington Scoop

Moving on, and finding the best new VC for VUW

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by Hugh Rennie
It is now well over three years since my public objection to the strange actions of Victoria University of Wellington; and then I found that many people used me as a contact point. So much followed.

Perhaps you are aware that the Vice-Chancellor is retiring on 4 March. His statement was made without any real explanation. But he could not bring himself to include the words “Victoria University of Wellington” in that statement!

An accompanying internal message reported that the Chancellor is retiring, and that the University Council has elected John Allen as Chancellor.

The Chancellor detailed steps to find a new Vice-Chancellor. Following representations from academic staff, a revised version provides for an advisory board of ten staff, all now appointed. I have heard from VUW academics that they have confidence in the process.

VUW will use a search consultant firm, and has issued an open invitation to staff, students, alumni and stakeholders to identify possible candidates.

This important process is the point of this message. VUW needs the very best new appointee as Vice-Chancellor. So – now is the time to contribute to this new appointment, by direct contact with the new Chancellor and the Council. (There are some new Council members – staff, students, and Crown appointees).

Staff, alumni, and students who have kept VUW’s reputation alive through the last three difficult years can now act directly within the university as members of the university.

This is the end of a campaign done in spare time, with almost no money, no central organisation – a spontaneous, grass roots, worldwide push back against marketing and branding schemes of VUW which have failed.

Mind you, that is apparently not how it looked to the Vice-Chancellor, who said in an interview a couple of years ago:

“Initially, it started off with very little interest. I had public meetings with only two or three people in them. Once a couple of people got concerned it might happen, we had political lobbyists crack into gear, we had social media experts crack into gear. Sponsored posts created [social media campaign] #StickWithVic, misinformation about what we’re trying to do and why we’re trying to do it. That angered people and got the whole thing on a roll. There’s a very professional opposition being created to what we think is a good idea.”

Political lobbyists? Social media experts? Very professional opposition? For a bunch of part-time amateurs, we clearly all got passes in marketing!

I congratulate every one for the outcome. We may not have reversed all damaging events of the past, but we have retained a solid foundation for VUW’s future. It is time to simply say “we won” and move on.

But I cannot close off this matter without paying special tribute to the late Bill Sheat. A man who had loved, studied in, worked for and fought for VUW for over 70 years, he was deeply offended. Going to hear the VC speak at a university hall, Bill was astonished to find that two security guards were placed between him and the speaker. Enraged by this, he lost no opportunity to fight back. We lost him this year, almost 91 years old.

A personal note:

Throughout the last three years, every effort was made to ensure there was no avoidable damage to VUW’s academic work. Suggestions for boycotting donations were rejected and also suppressed. Even as management wasted monies – ultimately millions – on its vanity projects, we tried to ensure that donors remained committed. Alas, not everyone agreed, and I know of several significant donations which did not happen.

Like almost all of you, I supported VUW appeals for donations. This became very personal a couple of weeks back. VUW’s Ferrier Institute [ https://www.wgtn.ac.nz/ferrier ] launched its campaign for funding for the next stage (clinical trials) of its research into a breast cancer vaccine. My wife, a 12 year survivor, has become the ambassador for the project. Professor Gavin Painter told the launch function that years of work (mainly funded by the Breast Cancer Foundation) has reached the stage of a possible vaccine.

I found it galling to sit there, hearing of the monies needed for the next stage in this breakthrough research. The money needed is less than VUW has just spent on changing every sign on every building everywhere. Plus the websites, stationery, and other wasteful vanities. If you would like to learn more about how you could support this important research for New Zealand women, please contact Brad Weekly, Development Manager: brad.weekly@vuw.ac.nz


  1. Helene Ritchie, 25. November 2021, 11:05

    Well said and well done Hugh et al. As a VUW alumni and a breast cancer survivor, I am going to see what I can best do where and when to support or help select. We need a strong VC who puts academic education and rigour first and we need funds for this ongoing breast cancer vaccine research! I am going to take a rest for a few days … and then well if you have thoughts about where I can best be utilised let me know …or else I will find my own way. Thanks all for all.

  2. Neil Douglas, 26. November 2021, 14:48

    I would like to applaud Professor Grant Guilford, Vice Chancellor of Victoria University of Wellington, for his eight years of leadership. I would particularly like to thank Grant for the excellent inaugural public lectures that the University has put on and at which he has opened the proceedings many times and stayed afterwards to meet and engage with the public.

    I’ve not agreed with everything Grant’s presided over. I would have liked to see the Gordon Wilson block of flats restored rather than left to rot, and I can’t see why a canoe has paddled itself into the University’s name.

    I’m thinking the last few years must have been very stressful on Grant with his progressive ideas in a conservative city topped by the financial pressures and stresses that the Kaikoura earthquake followed by COVID has brought, so I hope Grant’s native forest restoration projects bring him and his wife peace and fulfillment when he steps down in March.

  3. Hugh Rennie QC, 26. November 2021, 17:28

    Helene Ritchie. On the matter of recruiting the new VC, I recommend that you communicate with the new Chancellor and Council who have the responsibility. To support the Ferrier team, do please contact Brad Weekly at the details given. They merit and need all the support they can get.

  4. Graham Atkinson, 29. November 2021, 15:01

    I noticed today that the Route 22 buses that only go from the Railway Station to Vic are now displaying the destination “Te Herenga Waka”

  5. Alf the Aspirational Apteryx, 29. November 2021, 20:17

    So we have a new Chancellor, ex Mfat, the Racing Authority and WREDA. Amazing.


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