Stellenbosch is one of the better universities when it comes to transformation

A group of Stellenbosch students and staff members have mobilised a movement called Open Stellenbosch to address transformation on campus. The group wants the university’s language policy on Afrikaans to transform, the institutional culture at the university to diversify, and the university to acknowledge its complicity in apartheid. RA’EESA PATHER asked Maties what they think of the movement and the university.

Ulrich van WykUlrich van Wyk, 24, postgraduate in education, Belville
It’s a cool initiative for people to meet together and discuss certain matters that affect them and certain students on campus. As long as there’s respect amongst them and for other people on campus then it’s okay for them to freely discuss things that affect certain people. We’ve learned about Die Vlakte and if the transformation movement hadn’t started or events hadn’t happened at universities like they did at UCT, then the bursaries for people who have been affected by Die Vlakte wouldn’t have been established. Most people depend on the institution to make transformation happen, but I think it depends on us as individuals. We need to open up and engage with each other, regardless of racial, class, language or religious and cultural differences.

Karen BothaKaren Botha*, 24, masters in linguistics, Somerset West
I’ve seen very little of the movement; I just follow them on Facebook and I feel like it’s been rather incendiary so far. Up until last week Thursday, when they posted something informative and researched, I haven’t felt comfortable supporting the movement. Sometimes, people don’t necessarily think; they just get upset and they have no idea what they’re getting upset about. That post was the first time I could see what they were saying. I support their ideals, but the way it’s been done is maybe not ideal. There is some form of transformation that is needed – especially when you look at situations like the race attack that happened at McDonalds, where drunk white guys were rude to a server, and beat up the black man who defended her. But overall, I do think that Stellenbosch is one of the better universities when it comes to transformation.

Tessa WilleTessa Wille, 20, BA in social work, Thornton
At first they said they wanted to transform the language policy on campus, and the movement had nothing to do with race. Now, all I read is stuff about race and white supremacy on campus that is related or connected to them, but they say it’s got nothing to do with that. I don’t know what their point is. Who cares about how many white people we have here? Or how many black or coloured people are here? They’re just starting conflict instead of resolving whatever issue they have. Yes, if it can benefit us, then the university should be more transformed. At the end of the day, people like to have change, but change isn’t always good.

Gugulethu SizibaGugulethu Siziba, 36, post-doctoral sociology research fellow, Stellenbosch
The idea behind transformation – the notion of inclusivity – is a logical one. Every institution is supposed to be open to all those who would like to be part of it. There are places where I feel part of the university, but there are other places where I don’t. It could be the demographics – you walk into a certain place and you’re the only black face. There are certain spaces that are more open to students of a certain race. There are also certain noticeboards that you look at and they are written in Afrikaans so you are already disqualified from knowing what that is or attending because you can’t get an interest to attend if you don’t know what it’s about. I listened to a talk once from the movement, but I haven’t participated much. There’s always a threat of replacing one form of exclusion with another.

Wyn FerreiraWyn Ferreira, 22, BA in psychology, Stellenbosch
Some of their ideas are pretty cool, but the way they conduct their protests is disrespectful. When we had the rector’s inauguration, they were complaining, but the guy has only been here for a few months and they’re already criticising him. They had to send in security to stop the protestors from crashing the inauguration and that is highly disrespectful. I don’t care whether he’s white, black or coloured, he hasn’t had time to do anything about anything yet. Some of their ideas are also crazy – they want only South African textbooks, which is excluding 90% of the world’s knowledge. It’s cool that they’re standing up for something that they believe in when most people are just docile. I respect that they’re going at it, it’s just how they’re doing it that is the problem. I’ve been here for five years now, and Stellenbosch has changed a lot. Five years ago, people were still only being friends with people of the same race, but now we’re more integrated.

– Voxes have been edited for brevity and clarity, all images by Ra’eesa Pather
* Name has been changed.