IN THE AUCKLAND UNIVERSITY COURT
I TE KŌTI MATUA O WAIPAPA TAUMATA RAU
 CRHC 1927
UNDER the Law School on Trial Series 2023
IN THE MATTER of the STUDENTS
AND the SYSTEM
Hearing: 17 July 2023
Appearances: Craccum Magazine, Torts 2021
JUDGMENT OF NEWS J
INTRODUCTION AND MATTERS OF GENERAL APPLICATION
 “The Law School is a structural disappointment… obsessed with elitism,” comment the appellants. The respondents differ, publicly boasting a Law School of “unparalleled excellence”, proven by its current QS University World Rankings as the 62nd Law School in the world, “committed to improving access to justice through excellence in teaching, research, service and engagement.” What then, really, is the reality of Auckland Law School?
 Over the coming weeks, the Craccum Court will consider three cases of interest in the overarching series termed “The Law School on Trial 2023”—Torts (LAW 231) 2021, Torts (LAW 231) 2023, and Legal Ethics (LAW 458) 2023.
 Given allegations of poor culture and equity in the Law School, this judgment will no doubt be of broader public interest. In particular, the Court draws the jury’s attention to:
- Allegations in 2016 that the culture of the Law School was discriminatory and intimidating towards women, prompting Dr Anna Hood and Professor Julia Tolmie of the Faculty to undertake an investigation into the matter. The 47-page report proved the validity of the claims.
- Allegations to The Herald in 2018 purported that the annual law camp, supported by the Law School, was rife with “rampant binge-drinking and sex”. An informal allegation from one student said a staff member propositioned her to go to his bach alone with him while on the same camp, but due to its anonymity, this was never investigated.
- Allegations in 2022 that even following Part I competitive entrance schemes, it is “notoriously and irrationally” difficult to obtain high grades. Data from an Official Information Act (OIA) request reveals that in 2022, a student was almost eight times more likely to obtain an A+ grade in Part II Law at the University of Waikato than at the University of Auckland and three times as likely at the University of Canterbury or Victoria University of Wellington. The University of Otago gave A+ grades at a nearly identical rate to the University of Auckland.
 As such, this series of cases has opened significant opportunities for evidence by the applicants (students of the Law School) and the respondents (staff of the Law School and wider University members). Many who provide evidence in this trial have chosen to do so anonymously. The Court has nonetheless gone to great lengths to ensure the validity of all evidence in this series. We encourage the jury and wider public members to remain open to all arguments the applicants and respondents raised in this trial.
CASE STUDY 1 – TORTS (LAW 231) 2021
 LAW 231 is a full-year course at the Law School, totalling 30 points of a 480-point undergraduate degree. The course is one of four major courses required to complete part II of the LLB and is predicated on passing or failing the course at the end of the year. For clarification to the jury, unlike traditional 15-point papers, this course must be completed in its entirety across two semesters. Such a course format undoubtedly lends itself to higher academic stakes—those who are unsuccessful in passing the course must retake it the following academic year and cannot enrol in compulsory Part III courses before completion.
 The Moana-Oceania Academic Initiative (MAI) group was established “to nurture and promote the desire for academic excellence” by supplementing compulsory academic courses. It runs to allow a smoother transition and assists in the lead-up to assignments and exams. It primarily comprises Pasifika students, including those who entered the law school under the Undergraduate Targeted Admissions Scheme (UTAS) programme and those under the standard admission process.
 In 2021, The MAI Torts group was given an official UoA slide to study for an assignment, and having used content from this slide, they were flagged for plagiarism and academic misconduct. Four women were immediately called into a meeting, and more would follow.
 The slides were judged too similar to the assignment, and faculty told students to resubmit due to New Zealand Law Society Council of Legal Education (CLE) requirements. Claims of plagiarism were eventually retracted, but the faculty continued to insist students resubmit the essay—in the middle of the 2021 lockdown. The faculty claimed they had no choice; however, when contacted, the council denied this was true, claiming that UoA faculty made the decision instead. By the time this was discovered, months had passed, too late to resubmit.
The Case for the Applicant
 The applicants claim that the ordeal led to a greater failure in this class. An OIA request reveals that in the 2021 academic year, there was a pass rate of 88.8% in LAW231, as opposed to 95.4% the year before and 88.1% the following year. In a course of almost 500 students annually, one student represents around 0.2% of the final pass rate. The Law School grading operates on a “grading curve”, meaning a certain number of students should receive a certain grade each year. The Court is satisfied that the numbers do not speak to greater fail rates and suggest the course has stuck primarily to the grading curve.
 However, the Court notes that the request to reveal the ethnicity of each student who did not complete the course was not granted, so it is equally possible that a larger proportion of non-completion was Māori and Pasifika in 2021 than in other academic years.
 The applicants submit that it is unfair to be punished for what is an innocent act. The mistake was the faculty’s, but the remedy is demanded of the students. As such, the students feel the process has not progressed in line with natural justice or a sense of fairness. The applicants assert that wider cultural sensitivities were also not apparent in the dispute process.
 The applicants claim that the ordeal shook their confidence and deeply affected them as a vulnerable group. Many students gave evidence that they did not feel they could share this accusation with family and stopped coming to class. Teresa Brown, a concerned student and Aotearoa Legal Union representative, led much of the negotiation witnessing first-hand the “physical and psychological impact.” Many were forced to resit the paper the following year, and the “heavy-handed manner” in which the dispute was dealt with left the overall programme, designed to enhance the abilities and outcomes of Māori and Pasifika Students, tainted.
 Students submit they were continually moved between different decision-makers, obstructed from the free transfer of information. For each meeting, a new request for information and transcripts was required. Sometimes these transcripts did not exist.
 Although the Deans acknowledged the problem should not have escalated, they made few accommodations. The applicants assert this resulted in their psychological exhaustion. The students involved became tired—they did not want to stand up to an academic head, and without dedicated leaders, they were worn down. Further, they could not have an advocate or present evidence during the process.
The Case for the Respondents
 The respondents submit evidence that a tutor in the MAI programme had discussed the assessment task with students. They assert that this had a twofold effect: first, the desire to have a separate assessment solely the work of students, and second, specific conversations in the misconduct proceedings were left untranscribed when the process was abandoned. Leading to difficulties in obtaining information.
 On wishing to keep the nature of the assessment, the faculty acknowledged the difficulties in creating a new submission for a legal essay. Still, it was believed it would be unfair to compare quiz marks to written work. These courses do not, for example, allow students an aegrotat or compassionate consideration for exams and instead mandate a resit.
 An allegation was levelled that, in the past, students had misrepresented lecturers’ information as their own and had not been punished. This allegation is contrary to the academic misconduct guidelines of the Law School, and was denied by the faculty.
 Finally, in the matter of process, the faculty would like to direct attention to the availability of the Academic Pacific Staff Team through every step of the process. Although individual students were responsible for representing themselves and carrying out the steps, they were available for assistance. Additionally, it is asserted that the process was conducted impartially and independently.
 Based on the evidence provided, the jury is directed to give a verdict as to whether the process was procedurally and substantively unjust.
Next Hearing Set: Monday, 31 July, in Issue #15.