EFF slams 'patriarchal culture' at University of Pretoria residences
20 June 2016
Pretoria - Members of the Economic Freedom Fighters Student Command (EFFSC) have accused the University of Pretoria of not doing enough to end the culture of patriarchy at the institution. The organisation has also claimed that the "degrading" initiation of first-year students is still rife at the university’s residences.
"A guy can't swipe his student card at the female residences, but a girl can swipe herself into male residences," EFFSC transformation officer Onthatile Marang said.
She said residence culture at the university was problematic, as it encouraged patriarchal behaviour to go unabated.
"There is a residence called Kollegetehuis where the boys are rewarded for sleeping with the most girls. If you've slept with the same girl for two months, they will make you sit on a bachelor's bench. They also sing songs about how hard the guys should fuck the girls," she said.
"There is a pool table where girls can't play unless they are topless. It encourages a very patriarchal environment. If you're gay, you're excluded from res culture," she said.
A student, who asked not to be named, confirmed to News24 that Kollegetehuis, one of the oldest residences at the institution, did encourage and reward male students for sleeping with females in their numbers.
Behind closed doors
"It's a first-year thing. There is a title that one gets at the end of the year for having slept with the most girls," said the student.
Marang said students who refused to participate in these activities were assaulted.
"The university claims they have denounced [this culture], but if you look at what is happening, res culture still continues. First years in their first week go through orientation and its extremely degrading. They have to greet statues, wake up in the morning to greet the [res leaders]. The university endorses those things. In male residences, they have to drink urine mixed with eggs," Marang said.
Another student who used to live at one of the university's residences said he decided to move out because of the degrading nature of res culture and tradition. He said in his first year they were told that they were never to practice or repeat in public some of the things they had been taught.
"I used to stay at Boekenhout and the problem I had was that there were very [few] black people staying there, 70% of the people were white. We used to wake up in the morning and had to make coffee for the senior guys. We were expected to greet statues and that is one thing I hated. We had to greet our seniors in a certain way and were not allowed to do that when there were external people," he said.
Speaking on the lack of transformation at the institution, Marang cited the example of Sonop residence, where only two of the students who live there are black. Marang said when they raised issues of transformation and questioned the allocation of rooms at Sonop, the university excluded the residence from participating in Serrie, an inter-residence cultural activity show.
"Not only did they exclude Sonop, they excluded Tuks Naledi, a residence at the Mamelodi campus. There are no white students staying at the Mamelodi residences, but the university excluded it saying it was not transformed," she said.
University spokesperson Anna-Retha Bouwer said the institution did not allow practices that the violate rights and dignity of students.
"Practices which violate the rights and dignity of students are not allowed in any of our residences. All so-called student initiation practices are banned at the University of Pretoria residences, on penalty of expulsion and/or dismissal. Only approved sports and cultural activities, in which students or residences participate voluntarily, are permissible," she said.
Bouwer denied claims that certain students had access to all residences. She called on students who have been at the receiving end of ill-treatment to report the incidents to management so that action could be taken against those in the wrong.
"Male and female students have access only to their own residences and no student has unrestricted access to any other residence. The university investigates every allegation of abuse and ill-treatment of first-year and female students at its residences. To this end, the university calls on all students, staff, parents and the general public to bring to its attention any incidents which threaten or violate the dignity and safety of our students," Bouwer said responding to claims of initiation rituals and awarding of prizes to male students for their sexual conquests.
Below is the full statement that was issued by the university, in reaction to News24's request for comment:
UP Statement on Allegations Contravention of University Policy at Residences
The University has taken note of unverified reports in the media, regarding alleged misconduct and contravention of University policy in some residences. The University will not tolerate any conduct that violates the rights of students and staff. The safety of all students including female students is a priority for the University
The University of Pretoria is committed to comprehensive transformation, including on campus and in residences, curriculum reform and language policy. For this reason the University has been engaging in structured consultations and discussions with all stakeholders. These discussions have been structured into three work streams focusing on language policy, curriculum reform and residence and campus culture.
Earlier this year, the University welcomed representations from the student LGBTI community. On the basis of these, the University has been reviewing all sexual harassment policies so as to improve prevention strategies against sexual violence, create an enabling environment for effective reporting, facilitate swifter response times as well as provide the necessary support for whistleblowers and survivors. University management meets regularly with the SRC and other student formations, including those representing students in residences.
Practices which violate the rights and dignity of students are not allowed in any of our residences. All so-called student initiation practices are banned at the University of Pretoria residences, on penalty of expulsion and/or dismissal. Only approved sports and cultural activities, in which students or residences participate voluntarily, are permissible.
Male and female students have access only to their own residences and no student has unrestricted access to any other residence.
The University investigates every allegation of abuse and ill-treatment of first year and female students at its residences. To this end, the University calls on all students, staff, parents and the general public to bring to its attention any incidents which threaten or violate the dignity and safety of our students.
Transformation is not an event but a journey. This is especially true for the transformation of behaviour, attitudes and culture.
The residence culture, campus culture and curriculum reform work streams are continuing with their work of engagement, consultation and the active imagination of different and a better University. Tremendous strides have been made thus far, and we will continue in our pursuit to truly reflect the spirit of our constitution and our democracy.
This article first appeared on News24, see here.