Statement by the Vice-Chancellor, Prof Dan Kgwadi, on the decision by the University Management Committee (UMC) regarding orientation practices at the North-West University
21 January 2018
The North-West University is fully committed to respecting the freedom and rights of all individuals and groups, as well as ensuring equality and human dignity for all. Since the beginning of the 2018 Registration & Orientation (R&O) programme, the University Management Committee (UMC) members have received complaints and concerns that suggest possible violation of basic human rights.
The UMC has held meetings with students from various groups at the Potchefstroom and Mafikeng campuses to ascertain the allegations of unfair treatment. Although these students appreciate the R&O activities, they are certainly unhappy with certain practices.
The UMC evaluated these practices and concluded that certain practices do not promote the NWU strategy or adhere to applicable policies, rules and regulations.
The UMC resolved in essence as follows:
- Student leaders must play their part in creating a sense of belonging for all NWU students irrespective of colour, language or origin.
- Language must be used in a manner that it is not exclusionary but as a tool for integration and ensuring communication and understanding among all students. The NWU’s language policy must be fully implemented at all times. I.e. we must apply multilingualism and use interpretation service whenever applicable. If interpretation services are not available, full live translation is to be utilized.
- Residence uniforms [as opposed to NWU-branded clothing] must only be used after hours (after 17:00), except that residence headgear and backpacks already purchased may be used.
- While it is understood that students may be escorted as a group as part of moving to areas where activities occur, or visiting university facilities, no group-marching, and no shouting at students as individuals or when in groups, is allowed
- Shouting at students for whatever reason is strictly prohibited
- First-year students or juniors must be treated with respect
- First-year students must be provided with opportunities and time to rest
- The official programme specifies which hours are available for the various activities which students may participate in. Switching off the lights to compel students to sleep is not allowed.
This was communicated to student leadership and relevant staff. The aforesaid measures are applicable immediately.
We acknowledge that senior students play an important role in the R&O programme and thank all involved. We affirm that management remains responsible and accountable for the R&O programme and will continue to monitor the programme closely. We believe that we can build a caring culture and a vibrant student experience in 2018 and beyond. The decision by the UMC will, to our mind, facilitate a more inclusive NWU where all will feel equally welcome.
This is in no way an attempt to stifle student life in residences at any campus. We encourage all spontaneous or organised activities as long as they are never enforced on any student, first-year or senior, and at all times recognise and respect the human dignity of everyone and are in accordance with our ethic of care.
We believe this intervention by the UMC was necessary and supports our objective of eventually producing graduates who will make distinctive contributions to society.
We need to develop graduates who can think independently and have the capability to explore and cultivate promising ideas. We also want them to enjoy their personal lives, and thoughtfully engage in public life. This starts at university level.
To achieve this, student life beyond the class-room must support the development and growth of students. Therefore we constantly must renew our student campus life across the NWU, in the light of our strategy.
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