Cape Town - The transformation spotlight has turned to Stellenbosch University (SU), where a new movement has emerged to tackle “institutionalised racism” at the university.
Open Stellenbosch (OS) - a group of students, staff and faculty workers from the university - held an open discussion on campus on Wednesday to highlight racial exclusion and the university’s language policy.
“The current language policy at Stellenbosch University belies the university’s own vision statement in so far as it excludes many students by privileging the Afrikaans language as a medium of instruction.
“We further hold that this privileging of Afrikaans as a medium of instruction translates itself to a privileging beyond the classroom and simply communication.
“It extends into the social fabric of our residences and other shared spaces, where black people are consequently maligned,” said OS spokesman Lwazi Pakade.
Pakade said OS was formed recently due to a lack of action on the part of university management in relation to incidents of racial assault and ongoing racism at the university and in the town.
SU spokesman Martin Viljoen admitted that the university’s campus culture had been unwelcoming in the past, but management has since moved to remedy this.
“The management of Stellenbosch is wholeheartedly committed to transformation and recognises the need to accelerate and deepen the process of systemic transformation.
The university is up front about this and has stated that progress has been made with regard to access and success, institutional language flexibility, integration, welcoming practices and student support, but challenges with regard to high-level representation and perceptions of the institutional culture remain,” he said.
Pakade said OS had been inspired by the Rhodes Must Fall movement, a similar organisation at UCT, which inspired the recent removal of a statue of Cecil John Rhodes from that campus after highlighting transformation problems at the university.
“Taking the language policy as a point of departure, we intend to reframe discussions about transformation to include aspects of institutionalised racism, as well as acknowledging the flagrant racism which is the result both of the legacies of apartheid as well as colonialism.
“We insist on purging the oppressive remnants of apartheid from this institution,” Pakade said.
Viljoen said the SU council had approved a new language policy in November last year, offering English as a language of tuition the same status as Afrikaans at the university.
Meanwhile, the UCT council has decided to apply for the permanent removal of the Rhodes statue from the campus.
The university also announced, following a council meeting on Wednesday night, that public consultation for the permanent removal of the statue had begun.
UCT spokeswoman Gerda Kruger said Heritage Western Cape had given the university an emergency permit for the temporary removal and safekeeping of the statue on March 31. She said the application process includes a statutory assessment of the history, context and heritage significance of the statue.
Comments for the public process can be sent to [email protected]