Otago law school Dean Mark Henaghan’s a character – we all know that. And his talk to Otago law alumni this week in Auckland consolidated his reputation with tall tales but true of his defense of students’ rights, including love making after a wine-and-cheese evening and the overdone suppression of Otago’s famed party culture. .
His Auckland address, to alumni not prospective students, was during part of an annual marketing drive to the Waikato, Auckland and Northland, recruiting students for a law school he says has the highest pass and retention rates of any law school in the country.
The competition for law students – bums on seats, if you like – is intense with six law schools in New Zealand competing for students to join the legal fray.
Recent developments by Auckland law school to increase their numbers has been highly controversial, leading to significant disagreement among Auckland Law School academics and others, including many at the bar, over what the school should be doing.
Although Otago Law School apparently intend to retain the current law school intake, the competition for students continues to be intense with the sheer number of schools and students.
Professor Mark Henaghan’s indefatigable personality and occasionally frivolously entertaining stories continue to attract students to his school as one of the key selling points for the school.
Well known for his occasionally irreverent attitude, but unquestionably admired by students and alumni alike, he has become the highest profile law school leader in the country and a relentless campaigner for his school and region, as well as an internationally recognised family law expert and frequent media commentator.
Among his anecdotes –
– Being requested to identify two students seen fornicating in the museum following a law wine and cheese evening. The professor defended their right to ‘make love’ in a typically liberal approach to student life.
– A student’s mother calling him to complain about nudity at a school camp while he was present while checking on the students’ welfare, resulting in his comment that it had taken him 1.5 hours to drive there, did she really think he would leave once the nudity began? It was, he said, a brief glimpse of partial nudity.
– The infamous couch fires were clamped down upon by over-zealous university officials, resulting in a top law student’s arrest for putting a pillow on a burning couch and being arrested and charged with arson – a potential 14 year prison term. She escaped conviction, but it demonstrated an attitude that was ridiculous. The couch burning also produced the fittest fire service in the country.
– He facilitated boy- and girlfriends visiting their partners when at the Unicol Hostel, or bringing booze to the hostel and resisting attempts to prevent the practice on the basis that the entry point, a window, was required in case of fire emergency at the hostel.
Mark Henaghan’s energetic efforts to market Otago capture many northern students and he continues too emphasise that Otago’s record retention rates and pass rates are the highest in the country.
A highbrow audience including Justice Simon Moore, brother Chris, Russell McVeagh partners Polly Pope and other senior partners and barristers did not deny the professor from winning over his audience – albeit with some expressing a degree of surprise at the stories and attitudes in a day when rectitude and correctness rule.
The ‘vintage Henaghan’ address nevertheless reflected the humour and the passion of a relentless campaigner for both his law school and the law.
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