Concerned academics at Rhodes University published a statement about the events at the university since April 17th 2016.
April 21st 2016
We wish to express our deep concern about the events at Rhodes University since April 17th pertaining to the rape protests and the police action on campus.
We support the hundreds of students who have protested against the prevalence of rape at the University and the failure of university management to provide sufficient channels for dealing with cases of rape.
We are deeply disturbed by the response of the police to the student protest, as took place on April 20th, and by the activities of certain members of senior management during the course of police action. But we commend the Vice Chancellor for attempting to prevent the police from attacking and arresting our students.
We believe that the interdict of the university criminalizes student protest and could escalate tensions on campus.
We urge senior management to offer proper leadership around such issues in a proactive and innovative manner and not simply to react to crises as and when they occur. In doing so, it must adopt a more inclusive and participatory approach such that academics and students do not feel marginalised and alienated.
In this regard, we recognize the traumas that survivors of rape have experienced on our campus by publicly acknowledging that:
• The University’s embedded masculine social cultures have normalized pro-rape attitudes within our university community creating an unsafe environment for women students;
• The University’s institutional culture still tends towards an approach that appears to downplay the gravity of reports of sexual violence;
• Women staff, including grade 1 to 5 working class women who are invisible in public discourse, have experiences of unwarranted advances and sexual harassment on this campus but do not speak out for job procures nests;
• Sexual violence in South Africa is rooted very deeply in our history of conquest and slavery, but this does not absolve us of directly and actively tackling the issue on our campuses right now;
• Decolonization and transformation projects will be meaningless if they are not embedded in active fight against sexual violence; and
• Our financially, socially, and gender vulnerable students are facing multiple, interrelated social struggles that require a holistic and over arching long-term transformational approach by the University.
Dr Babalwa Magoqwana (Sociology)
Dr Vashna Jagarnath (History)
Dr Nosiohiwe Ngqwala (Pharmacy)
Prof Kirk Helliker (Sociology)
Dr Nomalanga Mkhize (History)
Prof Michael Neocosmos (UHURU)
Dee Mohoto (Drama)
Corrine Knowles (Extended Studies)
Siphokazi Magadla (Political Studies)
Prof Andrew Buckland (Drama)
Prof Alex Sutherland (Drama)
Dr Sally Matthews (Political Studies)
Thina Maqubela (Statistics)
Mutsa Chinyamakobvu (Statistics)
(On behalf of Concerned Academic Staff)
Featured image by Mishka Wazar