An outdoor exhibition, featuring the works of 20 South African Artists displayed around the town of Stellenbosch and it's campus. Picture: Candice Chaplin

Cape Town - An extraordinary meeting of former students at Stellenbosch University is to be held to thrash out a contentious new policy on admissions to campus residences.

Opponents of a draft published on the university website say it “discriminates unfairly on the basis of race, ethnic or social origin, colour, age, culture and/or language”.

The critics of the policy, of whom 104 have signed a submission to the university, said it “amounts to quotas based on race and/or language”.

They added that it “does not encourage healthy diversity and campus life, but rather will have a destructive effect on the diverse, inclusive and already existing cultural practices and institutions in the context of the residences at Stellenbosch University”.

It was in conflict with people who belonged “to specific language and cultural communities to use that language and culture”, they said, and “in conflict with the spirit and the letter of the constitution of South Africa and Stellenbosch University’s commitment to it”.

The university has also received a submission in favour of the proposal from 112 members of convocation.

An advertisement announcing the extraordinary meeting, to be held next month, was placed in weekend papers.

Those in favour said the early draft of the new policy, and subsequent versions, were “not only constitutionally sound but also a positive step to widen access to a resource that has proven to increase academic performance”.

The 24-page draft suggested percentages of students in campus residences based on race, language and whether or not a student’s parents had studied at Stellenbosch.

It recommended that in the mixed residences, the racial breakdown should be “35 percent brown, 20 percent black, 40 percent white, 5 percent Indian”. It also gave a language breakdown as 45 percent Afrikaans, 40 percent English and 15 percent other.

A newer version of the policy did not give racial and language breakdowns, but simply said five factors would be taken into account: South African citizen or international student, language preference, ethnicity, whether or not a student’s parents had studied at Stellenbosch, and economic circumstances.

Convocation president Christo Viljoen said it had been decided to hold the meeting so both sides could voice their opinions rather than hold two separate discussions.

“This is going to be debated and we welcome this debate. I personally have full faith in the (university) council in coming to an agreement.

“The final say is going to be that of the council.”

He said the process of revising the policy had started about 18 months ago and there had been nine versions.

“Version number nine is very different to the original one,” Viljoen said. He said it was clear that there would be many opinions among the roughly 118 000 convocation members who had graduated in the past 60 to 70 years.

According to the latest version, the change in policy was intended to ensure students were placed “in such a way that it will contribute positively to the formation of sound, diverse communities”.

Another objective was to allocate places to the most vulnerable students.

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Cape Times