Canterbury University engineering society loses brewery, insurance sponsors over stunt

The 20-year-old engineering student lit his hair on fire and jumped off the roof of his two-storey Christchurch flat ...
GEORGE HEARD/FAIRFAX NZ

The 20-year-old engineering student lit his hair on fire and jumped off the roof of his two-storey Christchurch flat into an inflatable pool on September 16.

Two sponsors have ditched their support for a Canterbury University society after a student was seriously injured in a stunt.

The 20-year-old engineering student lit his hair on fire and jumped off the roof of his two-storey Christchurch flat into an inflatable pool on September 16. 

The stunt was part of the man's candidacy for the committee of the University of Canterbury Engineering Society (Ensoc). It was filmed and was to be played at the Ensoc AGM last Tuesday.

He remains in hospital with a fractured spine.

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DB Breweries and insurance company MAS have pulled their sponsorship of Ensoc as a result of the incident.

A DB spokesman on Monday said the company was "absolutely devastated" at what happened and would never knowingly support such an act.

The brewery, one of Ensoc's gold sponsors, withdrew its sponsorship today, the spokesman said.

"We have spoken to Ensoc president Zaimon Sansom​ this morning and have communicated our decision that we will not be renewing our University of Canterbury Engineering Society sponsorship next year.

"We have also asked for all use of our branding to be removed from their website today."

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A spokesman for silver sponsor MAS said: "We were not aware of, nor would we ever condone, Ensoc's initiation process for the committee."

"While we understand Ensoc no longer encourages this practice, we have determined that the conduct of the organisation was not consistent with our brand values and accordingly have decided to terminate our sponsorship with immediate effect."

Detective Sergeant Mike Freeman said police had spoken to the student's family and would not be investigating the incident any further.

Two of the student's flatmates said last week the man was not drinking on the night. The water in the paddling pool was about one metre deep. It was a "freak accident", they said.

According to the society's guidelines for potential candidates, nominees were required to notify the AGM adjudicator of the content of their stunt prior to filming.

"The purpose of the stunt is to prove to the audience that you are the best man or woman for the job, and the lengths you are willing to go for the betterment of the club."

The form says stunts that involve serious injury to the candidate or anyone else would not be accepted. It also asks candidates to consider: "Are there likely to be serious long-term consequences from my stunt?"

The student's flatmates said Ensoc had scrapped the stunt requirement this year because of the accident. The stunt tradition was not well-known, they said.

The footage of the incident had been deleted.

Ensoc's president referred inquiries to the University of Canterbury, which declined to comment.

HISTORY OF ENSOC

Ensoc was founded in 1897 by Professor Robert J Scott, and is one of the university's oldest surviving student clubs. Over time, it not only became support for members' academic and professional aspirations but an outlet for socialising.

The infamous Undie 500 pub crawl from Christchurch to Dunedin – once ranked in the top 100 adventures of the world by a men's magazine – sent members clattering down the South Island in controversial costumes and themed cars bought for less than $500.

In 2009, the rally deteriorated into a weekend of violence in Dunedin. It led to 67 arrests and police in riot gear had to storm mobs of students burning furniture. The event stopped after criticism from Dunedin Mayor Peter Chin and the club saying it could not control the fringe elements "down there".

Funds were instead put towards post-earthquake student army activity in 2010 but in 2011 it was renamed the RoUndie 500 and re-routed to just around Canterbury. It has run without major incident.

 - Stuff

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