NEWS & ANALYSIS

Varsity should've shown greater sensitivity - UCT SRC President

Lorne Hallendorff says poll on student views of racial attractiveness without any statistical merit whatsoever

Below is an Open Letter to the Editor of Varsity in response to the "Is Love Colour Blind" article and attached poll:

To The Editor: Varsity Newspaper

An open letter to the editor of Varsity Newspaper

The SRC is aware that the issues raised by the opinion piece, "Is Love Colour Blind" and the poll "UCT votes on most attractive race" published in the fourth edition of Varsity Newspaper need to be talked about rather than swept under the carpet (see here). I also want to make it clear from the outset that the SRC respects the autonomy of Varsity newspaper and would never interfere with that autonomy. We are also aware that we are dealing with an opinion piece. However, we believe that all media bodies are open to criticism. We hope that Varsity will respect the SRC's right to criticise the newspaper just as we respect the right of Varsity or any student to criticise the SRC. In fact, we welcome constructive criticism as a means to improve and we trust that the below letter will be seen in that light.

The SRC constitution makes express provisions for the SRC president to ask "any SRC member or its sub-structure to account for his or her actions/activities."

In this particular instance, the SRC cannot condone the manner in which a very sensitive issue has been approached.

We stand by the values of UCT's Mission Statement which states that we should "strive to provide an environment for our diverse student and staff community that is affirming and inclusive of all staff and students and promotes diversity."

We believe that any media body has a responsibility to consider the context in which it exists and the sensitivity of the issues on which it reports. In the case of this particular matter, greater sensitivity should have been shown to an issue that has painful historical significance.

To draw conclusions from a poll of 60 people fails any real statistical requirements. While we understand that this is a flash poll in which the race of the participants was disclosed, on a matter as sensitive as this, there is an onus on the person conducting the research to comply with various statistical methods to ensure the validity of the results. The SRC is forced to dismiss the poll results as lacking any statistical merit whatsoever.

I would like to invite Varsity to respond to the above letter in writing. We are open to hearing your response.

Again, we trust that this letter will be taken in the light of constructive criticism that is in the interests of the student body. We further hope that you will accept that in the interests of transparent governance and pre-empting requests to view this letter, it has been decided to make it open.

Sincerely

Lorne Hallendorff

President
Students' Representative Council
University of Cape Town

Issued by the UCT SRC, April 4 2013

Click here to sign up to receive our free daily headline email newsletter