University of Otago proctor Dave Scott has admitted he was wrong to enter a student flat unannounced and confiscate bongs used for smoking cannabis but says he doesn't believe doing so makes him a criminal.
Mr Scott took it upon himself to uplift water pipes and bongs from a student flat earlier this month after he let himself in to deliver some pamphlets, the student magazine Critic said, rnz reported earlier today.
Criminal lawyer Michael Bott told Morning Report Dave said Mr Scott's behaviour is unlawful, and could be seen as an act of burglary.
Mr Scott told a press conference this afternoon that with the benefit of hindsight he was wrong to enter the flat.
"I'm a human and I have made an error of judgment on this occasion [and] I've apologised to the flat in question this afternoon for what I did," he said.
"I have made a mistake here and I am willing to learn from it."
He said he was trying to deal with the situation without involving police.
When asked if he broke the law, he said he was not above scrutiny and was wrong.
"Does that make me a criminal? I don't believe so," he said.
"This was a situation that could have been dealt with differently."
University of Otago Vice Chancellor Professor Harlene Hayne said in a statement the university continues to have full confidence in Mr Scott.
"I have discussed the Proctor's actions with him, and he agrees this will not happen again," Professor Hayne said.
"In my experience of the Proctor on so many occasions he always has the students' best interests at heart, and he has worked extremely hard to ensure students are treated fairly while they are here," she said.
She added that the University remains a place where students can "spread their wings in a safe and supportive environment."
"In doing that, we recognise the fundamental importance of respecting students' rights."
Professor Hayne said: "In this case he took steps in what he saw as the best interests of the students involved but which has caused understandable concern to others.
"The University is clear that the Proctor does not have powers to enter private premises and he has accepted that it was a misjudgement to do so on this occasion."
Meanwhile a petition on Change.org, started by Josh Smythe, Otago University Student's Association recreation officer, calls for Mr Scott to resign.
By early evening it had garnered more than 1300 signatures.
"We are submitting this demand for the resignation of Dave Scott and an official condemnation of his methods from the University of Otago," Mr Smythe wrote.
"The reasons for this demand is straightforward - we feel that he has abused his position of power within our community as the disciplinary representative of the university. He has committed potentially illegal acts, broken the trust of this community..." he wrote.
"Entering flats through the back door unannounced, whilst knowingly occupying such a powerful role, is unacceptable....
"He should be building bridges, not smashing bongs."