South Africa: New residence policy at UFS causing a stir

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at
Thu Jun 14 13:36:29 UTC 2007

New residence policy at UFS causing a stir

by Andre Grobler

Students at the University of the Free State (UFS) are threatening
protest action over new policy guidelines for residences on the main
campus in Bloemfontein for 2008.This follows an announcement, last
week, by the university council of a "minimum diversity level of 30
percent in each junior residence" to increase diversity on the main
campus.This will bring a huge shift in the way first-years will be
placed in residences, which are still either mainly white or mainly
black."The University of the Free State wants to increase diversity in
its student residences for sound educational reasons," said Professor
Frederick Fourie, rector of the UFS, on Wednesday."We want to equip
our students to appreciate and to be enriched by diversity in all its
manifestations, whether language diversity, cultural diversity,
religious diversity, economic background," said Fourie.He was reacting
to claims by the Freedom Front Plus youth on campus that the new
policy guidelines of "forced integration" in residences was rushed
through without proper consultation.The council announced the new
policy guidelines for residences on the main campus of the UFS in
Bloemfontein last Friday."What the UFS seeks to do with these new
policy guidelines, is to overcome the racial divides of the past and
equip students in residences with the knowledge and skills to
understand people from other cultures, appreciate other languages and
to respect differences in religion but also economic background," said
Judge Faan Hancke, chairman of the council, and Fourie in a joint
statement.According to the university the guidelines were approved
after consultations with a range of stakeholders, including students
in residences, student leaders and student organisations.Input was
also received from alumni and parents.However, FF Plus youth leader
Cornelius Jansen van Rensburg has expressed disapproval at "forced
integration" in residences."Forced integration is as bad as forced
segregation," he said."It takes away the rights of students to choose
in which cultural surrounding they wish to stay for the duration of
their studies."Nevertheless, Fourie said the new policy would help the
students in these residences in future."The knowledge and skills that
they acquire to manage diversity in this way will enhance their
educational experience at the UFS and give them a distinct advantage
over many other work seekers."Fourie said the residences must reflect
the realities of a diverse society and a diverse workplace.He said
much effort was made to consult role players.These include students,
live-in wardens, residence heads, head students and the student
representative council."Against this background the decision of the
UFS council was made to adopt a policy with a specific diversity
requirement," said Fourie.Free State FF Plus youth leader Jan van
Niekerk denied university's claim that the process was
transparent."The reality is that the consultation process with all
role players was pushed through and is still pending."Van Niekerk said
students, parents and alumni were not consulted fully."Despite many
role players pronouncing themselves strongly against the process, the
university went ahead".Van Niekerk said the students were not happy
and that action, even protest action, could be expected after the
vacation.The policy requires that from 2008 first-year students are to
be placed to achieve a minimum diversity level of 30 percent in each
junior residence.In senior residences a mix of about 50-50 will be the
goal from 2008.The residences will be responsible for placing 50
percent of first-years, which gives them the scope to increase
diversity.The university's accommodation service will place the other
50 percent.If a residence cannot reach the diversity objectives, the
university will use the 50 percent of placements that it controls to
achieve sufficient diversity. –Sapa

This story was last updated 6/14/2007 1:13:45 PM,1,22

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