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Another One Bites the Dust

Second AUT ‘Top Dog’ ‘resigns’ in the midst of allegations

By Jack Pirie

AUT has seen its fair share of scandals over the last year. From the allegations made towards Max Abbott we have seen a pattern emerge. This pattern can only be described as a snowball effect. When one story breaks and exposes someone’s wrongdoing, it leads to more people becoming exposed to those actions. The latest of the snowballs is Professor Nigel Hemmington, Pro Vice Chancellor for Research Innovation and International.

When the initial sexual harassment investigation was undertaken against Max Abbott, the former dean of the university, we saw similar allegations pursued against other ‘top dogs’ of the university. This time we have seen the Pro Vice Chancellor, Nigel Hemmington, come under public scrutiny with sexual allegations pinned against the senior university staff member. Mr Hemmington has since resigned from his role at the university.

A formal complaint was issued in 2019 against Prof Hemmington. The complaint was based around the allegation that the Pro Vice Chancellor continually boasted about his sexual lifestyle and the Japanese bondage acts of shibari to his colleagues over multiple years. According to AUT staff members Mr. Hemmington continually made other staff members uncomfortable with the constant discussions of his sexual lifestyle.

Staff members have said that Mr. Hemmington would often show colleagues video footage of the sexual bondage and have even said that he would show photos of himself tied up in rope to colleagues both on campus and internationally. One female staff member claims that he showed her the physical rope burns he had obtained whilst practicing the bondage act.

The complaint was swept under the carpet in a very AUT like manner shortly afterward. To which an exit agreement was made meaning the complaint “may not be investigated”. With AUT’s fear of another sexual harassment debarkle in the media, Vice-Chancellor Derek McCormack sent this email to staff:

“This email is to inform you that Professor Nigel Hemmington has resigned from his position with immediate effect.  Staff will be aware of media allegations against Professor Hemmington.  Professor Hemmington considers the allegations to be 'completely distorted representations of some events, and to be generally erroneous in many respects.' However he is at a point in his career relatively close to retirement and has other opportunities to pursue. He has therefore decided to resign to prevent the continuation of a media controversy which might damage the reputation of the University.” -Derek

Is this AUT again trying to hide evidence of a ‘boys club’ amongst senior members of the university? Are they sweeping sexual allegations and investigations under the rug to avoid media attention? Is the ‘open secret’ of inappropriate sexual behaviour becoming the norm at the university. We at Debate certainly hope not.

The ‘Independent Review’ of AUT’s structure and policies (with a focus on sexual harassment) is currently underway after the initial allegations against Max Abbott. As far as Debate is aware, several staff members have been interviewed to help with the investigation. However, we are unaware of any student involvement with the review at this stage. Only time will tell to see if this snowball gains any more momentum as it rolls down the mountainside that is AUT.


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