Victoria University in Wellington has done the right thing, but for the wrong reasons, by banning three students (temporarily, alas) for burning a New Zealand flag on campus.
The students burnt the flag outside a campus bar on May 6 as part of an Anzac Day anti-war protest.
But they have not been punished for behaving disgracefully, or for insulting our flag, or for treason.
Nope. The buggers have been done for breaching safety rules.
The university has disenrolled flag burners Joel Cosgrove and Alistair Reith, and Ian Anderson, who filmed the protest, until the end of the first trimester on June 7 on the grounds they breached health and safety standards.
It also issued a written warning to Marika Pratley, who was there at the time, and banned all four from the Mount Street bar.
“These students have shown a disregard for the safety of others and of university property,” dean of humanities and social sciences Professor Deborah Willis said.
The students had set the New Zealand flag alight using an accelerant without warning anyone around them or having any means to put out the fire.
Whether the flag-burning endangered anyone is questionable. It happened outside in the rain, for starters, and anyone who doesn’t have the wits to get out of the way of a burning flag should not be at university.
Prof Willis accordingly is seriously testing Alf’s credulity when she warbles about the university’s statutory duty to provide a safe environment for all its students and employees.
Are the university authorities trying to tell us burning the flag on Anzac Day is okay so long as you warn everybody first and have the fire brigade on hand to douse the flames?