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Come to Massey and you, too, can become eye candy

Association of University Staff

Media Release

Attn Education Reporter 1 May 2008

Come to Massey University and you, too, can become eye candy....

In what must be one the most banal news features emanating from a university this year, Massey has trumpeted the success of one of its students in finishing third in the Miss Universe New Zealand beauty pageant this month after being first runner-up in last year’s Miss Manawatu contest.

The original version of the story on the University's website was illustrated with a publicity photograph of the Bachelor of Science graduate in a bikini, kneeling in the surf. By lunchtime, however, the photograph had been removed, which at least suggests that the University administration admits that it was inappropriate for its website.

According to Association of University Staff National President, Associate Professor Maureen Montgomery, the news feature was a celebration neither of the student’s scholastic achievement nor, one should hope, of Massey University’s ability to train beauty-pageant contestants.”

Associate Professor Montgomery said that University students, particularly in the Arts, are taught to critique such images in terms of their representational function. “Massey University has provided an excellent example of how the desperation to market universities as ‘attractive’ places to gain knowledge and transferable skills intersects with the use of the sexualized female body as a site of desire. Massey’s story reads like the formulaic sort of thing that aspiring beauty queens are expected to say when interviewed on the catwalk.”

“One might expect a university public relations office to do more than piggy-back off what comes across as a publicity statement produced by the Miss Universe organisation. Surely it can do better in promoting the campus to prospective students than by using this young woman who apparently loved “Palmy” and enjoyed the social life at Massey,” Associate Professor Montgomery added.


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