Pretoria - Despite reports that the University of Pretoria (UP) is rethinking its residence model, the existing model will still apply in the next academic year.
This is according to a statement by UP after it emerged it was considering separating first-year and senior students in its residences.
This will mean certain residences will house only first-year students while other residences will be designated for senior students.
UP spokesman Sanku Tsunke said: “The introduction of first-year residences, with associated mentorship programmes, tutorials and leadership initiatives, is but one of several options being considered to improve academic success of undergraduate students.”
Other possibilities under investigation include the expansion of residence capacity, but Tsunke said all affected parties would be consulted before a final decision was taken.
“We’d like to place the following on record: The existing UP residence model will continue to apply in 2015,” Tsunke said.
The university’s executive committee apparently told the heads of the residences of the decision late in June for the first time.
Early this month, AfriForum Youth at the university sent a letter to Professor Themba Mosia, who is charged with residence affairs and accommodation, about the proposed new system.
“No consultation process with students was followed, nor was the effect on student culture determined. AfriForum Youth also questions why the decision was taken during the holiday, and on which grounds,” said chairwoman Rochelle Oosthuyse.
If accepted, the new system may be in place from 2016.
“UP manages its residences in the context of academic excellence. As for student housing, the university strives to create an environment in which resident students, and new first-years in particular, can achieve academic success and participate in student life in a balanced and safe manner,” said Tsunke.
For this reason the university regularly revisited its residence model. “Over the years the university has developed new models of student housing while retaining many of the traditional models.”
Under the new system, Olienhout men’s residence will house first-years only. Women’s residences Inca and Asterhof will also be for first-year students only, while men’s residence Boekenhout will house senior students only. Women’s residences Lillium and Jasmyn will also house seniors.
“House parents, the director of residence affairs and student leaders were not consulted in the matter,” said Oosthuyse. “Traditions like Rag, Ienk Melodienk, Sêr and the go-kart festival could be reduced in importance. This decision will adversely affect student life.”
Former Jasmyn resident Marthé Kotze said the residences were fine the way they were. “Tuks is messing with the student culture of the university. It has already taken away so many of the initiation traditions, now it wants to change even more. I think this will negatively affect residences and students,” she said.
“It would’ve been great to keep the residence culture going,” said former Jasmyn resident Katlego Mkhwanazi. “But students can get carried away with things like initiation. It’s important for students to feel comfortable. If they’ll feel more comfortable living with only their peers then I’m for the change.”
Former Boekenhout resident Wiehan Havenga said the possible change was a tragedy.
He blamed complaints from first-years about seniors and initiation for the proposed changes. “I shake my head at Tuks and at the generations of first-years whose complaints allow for segregation between students to creep in.”
Litha Stwayi, who also used to live in Jasmyn, said the potential change was “quite drastic”.
“Depending on the reasoning for doing it, maybe they’ve done studies that show something,” she said.
Tanith Quait, who was in Erika, said: “Worst idea ever. Such heartbreaking news. It’s tough being a first-year, but it teaches you so many valuable lessons for the future.”
Former Inca resident Francesca de Wit was shocked by the possibility. “It’s so sad that all the culture is being taken away,” she said.