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Printed in the Wanganui Chronicle


These articles have been retyped from when they appeared in the Wanganui Chronicle on Thursday, March 21st, 2002.

Pupil's failure stuns artists

By Paul Vettise

Student flunks out of course; Polytech snubs top artists' opinions. Claims appeal process has been compromised.

Two high-profile Wanganui art identities have been staggered by the Wanganui Polytechnic's assessment of a fine arts student. Internationally-acclaimed sculptress Joan Morrell and art teacher Peter Donne have both viewed Pauline Hudson's work at the Taupo Quay School of Arts and considered it excellent. Both have been dumbfounded by the polytech's lowly rating - a finalgrade of D - which has resulted in Miss Hudson failing to gain her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree."I was impressed with the standard of work and also its uniqueness,' Mr Donne said."In all my 40 years of teaching art to pupils of all ages and abilities, I found Pauline's unique style and choice of subject matter something I had never come across before. "Pauline's work is sensitive, beautiful and quite outstanding. You can therefore imagine my surprise to learn that her work has been assessed by tutors as D. Mr Donne said the work warranted a B plus, if not an A. He made his opinion public in the Wanganui Chronicle Letters to the Editor column last year, which brought a terse reply from polytech academic manager Suzanne MacAulay. "This demonstrates Pauline Hudson is soliciting uninformed and non-professional opinions that challenge the findings of top professionals in the fine arts field in New Zealand,' she wrote in her report to the polytech arbitration committee. "The publication of such a letter indicates that Pauline Hudson has moved outside the informal and formal appeal process of the Wanganui Polytechnic and is subject to compromising the entire process and possible denial of a formal appeal under the aegis of the polytechnic arbitration committee.' Suzanne MacAulay's comments were contained in her report to the polytech arbitration committee, a paper which was released to Miss Hudson under the Official Information Act. Mr Donne was flabbergasted by the polytech response. "Nobody could be much higher up than me, I've been teaching art all my life," he said. Mr Donne is an acclaimed artist in his own right and his credentials scoff at the "Uninformed and nonprofessional' polytechnic claims. He was the head of the Isleworth Polytech art department in London with responsibility for 3000 students and 70 staff. He has been elected, a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts and a member of the Society of Graphic Artists. He held numerous one-man and mixed exhibitions of his work in London and Scotland before he moved to New Zealand. "Then for 15 years I was head of the Wanganui High School art department,' Mr Donne, who also served for a number of years on the Sarjeant Art Gallery acquisitions committee, said. He was taken aback by the polytech stance. "I was quite stunned... all artists work in different ways and she has a quite unique approach and for that alone she should have been given some credit,' Mr Donne, a Turoa Art award winner, said. "I've looked at her sketch books and everything she set out for the examiners and in my honest opinion it was worth a B plus or an A."
Mm Morrell was also stumped by the polytech's assessment of Miss Hudson's ability. 'I felt after all her years of work to fail her at the last minute was very, very harsh - a one-sided opinion,' Mrs Morrell said. "There was some emotive marking there, a very hard personal judgment." Mrs Morrell saw no reasons for failure. "I was amazed at her diligence, in executing the work and its layout but I was even more amazed that she had received such low marks for it, D minus, I believe," she said.
'I believe that there needs to be some reassessment with a more objective view of what she has endeavoured to express. "My own experience of 40 years of the ups and downs of bronze sculpture
and fashions, my own country's acknowledgment of my judgment by awarding me with a QSM (Queens Service Medal - ed) and 1990 commemoration award, both awards for the arts, tells me that Pauline deserved a pass at the very least."

Politics and bias at Polytec?

By Paul Vettise

Wanganui artist Pauline Hudson is a failure in the eyes of the Wanganui Polytechnic. Despite acclaim from at least two acknowledged leaders in their respective artistic fields, Miss Hudson has been flunked out of the Bachelor of Fine Arts programme. She was given a final grade of D after she had graduated from the foundation visual arts programme as a lead-in to years one, two and three, which she passed, of the Bachelor of Fine Arts degree. The ceramic student's dream of her degree is in tatters and she has demanded to know why.  Miss Hudson, 35, spent five years at the polytech only to be marked out of graduation and has exhausted her avenues of appeal with the institution. She said her failure to graduate with the rest of her class was not graded on the standard of her work. "There was internal politics involving personal bias and a difference of opinion in art. 'I chose to be figurative, nowhere is it written you have to do your work in a minimalist style but that's the style the school likes. I chose to be different.' Miss Hudson, who had hoped to pursue a career in teaching, admitted she was not top of the class material but is adamant she was comfortably above the pass standard. 'I'm not saying that I'm an amazing student but what I am saying is that I'm not a failing student - I'm of a standard to obtain a degree," she said. So, why has Miss Hudson been marked so low?  Miss Hudson believes her troubles can be traced back to an initial tutor, George Kojis. She had complained to polytech officialdom about his behaviour, which she termed psychologically abusive. Mr Kojis subsequently left the polytech. Because of their disagreements, Miss Hudson claimed members of subsequent assessment panels were biased against her.  Miss Hudson said her stance over Ucol's involvement with the - polytech was also unpopular.  She had refused to join in a protest against the Palmerston North institute. 'They (the polytech) wanted students to march and I spoke against it." She said her style of work was different and she had paid a hefty penalty for that. 'I did attempt at the beginning of the year to conform to their ideas of art but that failed. 'It's the way they treat people outside the preferred style --- I've never been able to conform." Halfway through her final year, Miss Hudson was given an F grade, which according to her tutor, was a 'wake-up call". Miss Hudson admits she did not take the assessment as seriously as she should have but maintains she was told it was a bit harsh and not to worry. 'My assessment panel failed me again in November, preventing me from graduating, and I maintain that the grades afforded me were harsh, unfair and coloured by personal bias," Miss Hudson said. She then entered into the appeal process. The decision of the faculty committee - of lecturer in ceramics Jonna Gibson, glass department lecturer Claudia Borella and Marty Vreede, head of printmaking - who originally assessed Miss Hudson's work was upheld by academic manager Suzanne MacAulay. The assessors questioned Miss Hudson's technical skills, focus, interpretation, use of colour commitment and proportion. She said the criticisms were unjustified and believed the panel was unfamiliar with the structure and/or definitions of the grading evaluation criteria. An external moderation report was then obtained, which also found Miss Hudson's work had not reached an adequate level of performance. The moderators -concerned were Fiona Pardington, of the Elam School of Fine Arts, Auckland University and Andrew Drummond, School of Fine Arts, University of Canterbury.  Miss Hudson claimed they had been influenced by the original assessors. The next step taken by Miss Hudson was to take her case to the portfolio review committee. They met on December 6 last year and agreed with previous findings. Original assessors Jonna Gibson, Marty Vreede and Claudia Borella were members of the review committee, which surprised Miss Hudson. The polytech's arbitration committee then met in February to consider Miss Hudson's case. The committee, chaired by Sue Westwood, upheld previous findings but did agree to undertake an internal review of the process. "I'm now in the process of laying complaints with the Privacy, Human Rights and the Commerce Commissions and with the New Zealand Qualifications Authority," Miss Hudson said. Miss Hudson said her failure to graduate was also divulged by academic manager Suzanne MacAulay in front of the student body at the practice graduation last November before any notice had been given to Miss Hudson. "I feel I've been publicly humiliated over this, there's no point going back to the polytech, I'm at least as good as the lowest student there and they graduated.'They've turned me down with no good reason l don't have any faith their system. 'I just wanted my degree - It's what I've worked and paid for' Miss Hudson said her student loan was running $40,000 and was frustrated and angry. 'I feel appalled that they can let their personal feelings run riot in this - I feel really, really disappointed in human nature."

Polytech to review case

The Wanganui Polytechnic will next week commence an internal review of the Pauline Hudson case. While the polytech's arbitration committee has refused to overturn the Quay School of the Arts decision to fail Miss Hudson, it has agreed to take a closer look at the her complaints and allegations. "She has raised some concerns and we will be commencing a review next week," polytech acting chief executive Jane Barton said. "It's normal procedure and an independent person, will follow it through. We will respond to the concerns and if there is any validity to what she is saying the appropriate action will be taken.' The polytech was invited to answer specific Chronicle questions regarding Miss Hudson's case but declined.

Failed student hopes Wiccan not an issue

Pauline Hudson has for the last 16 years studied as an eclectic Wiccan -or in more common terms as a witch.'Lots of friends of mine are happy to say they are witches and I prefer to be open and honest,' Miss Hudson said. "If you're secretive people think you're trying to hide something." Miss Hudson said the Wiccan faith was a nature-based religion that recognized and celebrated the seasons, new moons and full moons. "It's no different to being Buddhist, Taoist or Christian. It's a belief system with a code of ethics as much as any other." There were 2000-plus Wicca in New Zealand, according to last census figures, and a rough estimate of 200 in Wanganui. 'Unfortunately to be a follower of Wicca is to carry the label witch, proudly or otherwise,' Miss Hudson said. 'With the term witch comes a cacophony of  perverted misbeliefs that can only be corrected with a patient and regular influx of correct information into society a task particularly suited to art.' Miss Hudson is open about her beliefs and is hopeful, but not confident, they have not been factor in her failure to graduate from the Wanganuj Polytechnic. "I've had it suggested to me by a number of people that it is the reason but I really hope that they aren't that closed-minded, but I'm beginning to suspect,' she said. Miss Hudson's Wiccan - artwork has gone on public display at the Taupo Quay School of the Arts and she was delighted with the welcome it received. "All my ideas are about creating Wiccan sacred space and the response from the public was absolutely magic,' she said. "I introduced a Wiccan circle to the public and they didn't freak - I got marvelous responses.'

By Paul Vettise