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26 February 2019 | Story Eugene Seegers | Photo Eugene Seegers
Prof Francis Petersen, Rector and Vice-Chancellor, Prof Daniella Coetzee, South Campus Principal, Tshegofatso Setilo, Director Access, Prof Prakash Naidoo, Vice-Rector Operations
Prof Francis Petersen, Prof Daniella Coetzee (Principal: South Campus), Tshegofatso Setilo (Head: Access Programmes), and Prof Prakash Naidoo (Vice-Rector: Operations) on the South Campus for the welcoming of first-years.


“Welcome to the South Campus of the University of the Free State!” Addressing a packed Madiba Arena, Prof Francis Petersen, Rector and Vice-Chancellor of the UFS, said he was happy to see not only first-year students, but also parents and guardians, student leadership, and support staff from both the Bloemfontein and South Campuses.

 “I would like to congratulate each of our first-year students for making the decision to come to Kovsies to further your studies here. But I would also like to thank you for making this choice,” he continued.

Prof Petersen further emphasised that the students’ experience and success as individuals are important to the UFS as an institution; therefore, academic and support staff are on hand to guide them through their journey to becoming well-rounded individuals. “We will surely take care of you,” said Prof Petersen. He also reassured parents and guardians that their loved ones would be well looked after.

The Rector also focused attention on the role of student-leadership structures, such as the newly-formed Institutional Student Representative Council (ISRC) and South Campus SRC, members of which were present in the audience. He thanked them for playing a key role in the student constituency, highlighting their support and guidance to help first-years cultivate a sense of belonging at the UFS.

Turning back to first-year students, Prof Petersen stated that they have the unique opportunity to study on a campus specifically focused on developing their full potential, a campus where they can realise their dreams. “Your arrival on the campus marks a new chapter in your life. This chapter is slightly different, as you are the author thereof. The previous chapters in your life were largely written by others—your parents, guardians, families, teachers, and others. You will now be the main author in the next chapter of your unique story.”

“At Kovsies, we believe in developing students in their totality as human beings, not just the academic side. May your time with us equip you to make a success of your life after university!”

Prof Petersen’s Message to First-year Students
  1. Take responsibility for your academic programme.
    • Keep your focus. Study and study hard. You will reap the rewards and see the advantages of making success in your studies a top priority.
    • Make sure that you have enough time for your studies; balance your social life and your time set aside to study.
  2. Realise and remember that you are not alone.
    • If you find things difficult, seek help.
    • Our Department of Student Counselling and Development has trained staff and tailor-made programmes that can assist you.
    • Look after your mental health—and look after each other’s mental health.
  3. Make the most of your time at Kovsies.
    • Join one or more of the student organisations; why not try something new?
  4. Embrace difference and diversity.
    • Get to know students who are different from you.
    • You will lose valuable opportunities to grow if you only associate with your own all the time. It is important to get to know students who are different from you. It could be someone from a different part of the country, or from another country, a different ethnicity, a different religion, someone who has different views from yours, or who has different interests and perspectives.

News Archive

Open letter from Prof Jonathan Jansen to all UFS students
2014-02-22

Dear Students of the University of the Free State

In the past four years there has emerged a new consensus on the three campuses of the University of the Free State (UFS) about the things that divide us – such as racism, sexism and homophobia. Students and campus leaders have worked hard to develop this new consensus in residences and in the open spaces on campus. There can be no doubt that new bonds of friendship have developed across the markers of race, ethnicity, class, religion and sexual orientation. I bear witness to these new solidarities every day on the campus.

You chose a white student to head up the transformation portfolio on the SRC. You chose a black captain to head up the university’s first team in rugby. You chose a white “prime” as head of residence to lead a predominantly black men’s residence. You chose a South African woman of Indian descent as Rag Queen and last week, a black student from Cape Town as the men’s Rag winner—choices not possible and never made before in our campus history. Many of you have intimate friends who come from different social or cultural or religious backgrounds. You learn together, share rooms together, pray together and party together. In other words, in the day to day workings of this university campus, you have demonstrated to campus, city and country that we can overcome the lingering effects of racism and other maladies in this new generation. You have helped create a university community inclusive of people of diverse religions, abilities, class and sexual orientation.

I have said this repeatedly that from time to time this new consensus will be tested – when a minority of students, and they are a small and dwindling minority, still act as if these are the days of apartheid. And when that consensus is tested as it was this week, and as it will be tested in the future, only then we will be able to assess the strength and durability of our progress in creating a new South African campus culture of human togetherness based on respect, dignity and embrace.

The real test of our leadership, including student leadership, is how we respond when our transformation drive is threatened.

Let me say this: I have absolute faith in you, as students of this great university, to stand together in your condemnation of these vile acts of violence and to move together in your determination to maintain the momentum for the Human Project of the University of the Free State. We have come too far to allow a few criminals to derail what you have built together in recent years.

There will, no doubt, be unscrupulous people on all sides of the political spectrum wanting to milk this tragedy for their own narrow purposes. There will be false information, rumours and exaggerations by those who wish to inflame a bad situation to gain mileage for their agendas. That is inevitable in a country that is still so divided.

I ask you, through all of this, to keep perspective. Two or ten or even twenty students behaving badly do not represent 30,000 students; a minority of violent and hateful persons do not represent the ideals, ambitions and commitments of the majority. At the same time, let us be realistic – anyone who thinks you can drive transformation without resistance clearly does not understand the difficult process of change.

The events of the week remind us, however, that we still have a long road to walk in deepening social and academic transformation at our university. Yes, we have invested hundreds of hours in training and mentorship; we have created new structures – such as the Institute for Reconciliation and Social Justice – to capture the energy and imagination of students driving transformation; we have created many opportunities for students to study and travel on this and other continents to enable cross-cultural learning; we have established formal and informal opportunities to dialogue about difficult issues on and off campus between students and their leaders; and we crafted new curricula to enable teaching and learning on the big questions of our times.

But this is clearly not enough, and so I have decided on the following immediate next steps:
  1. We will meet for several hours next week to think about how we can deepen the transformation of our university after this terrible incident.

  2. We will arrange a University Assembly on the events of the past week so that we speak with one voice on human wrongs and to re-commit to human rights and we will continue with open forum discussions during the months to come.

  3. We will review the entire spectrum of programmes, from orientation to residence life to the undergraduate curriculum, to determine how effective our interventions really are in reaching all students with respect to basic issues of human rights.

  4. We will review our media and communications strategy to determine how far and deep our messages on human rights travel across all sectors of the university community. In this regard it is important that the campus be blanketed on a regular basis with our condemnation of human wrongs and our commitment to human rights.

  5. We will commission the Institute for Reconciliation and Social Justice to review the events of the past week and make recommendations on how we can improve the campus environment so that all students are protected from harm inside residences, classrooms and in open spaces of the campus.

  6. We will take the questions raised during this week into the academic community and to the general staff of the university so that all personnel also engage with our own roles and responsibilities with respect to campus transformations.

  7. We undertake to make annual report-backs on transformation to all stakeholders in public forums so that students and staff and external communities can track the progress of the university on matters of human rights on campus.

I wish to thank my staff for acting firmly as soon as this tragic event came to our attention. We worked through the night to find and identify the perpetrators. We traced the two students and immediately handed them to the police. They were expelled. And throughout this process we offered counselling and support to the victim of this violent act.

The two former students were expelled and will now face justice in the criminal courts. It is hoped that in the course of time they will come to their senses and seek restoration and reconciliation with the student they so callously harmed. They are not part of the university community anymore.

That is the kind of university we are.

Jonathan D Jansen
Vice-Chancellor and Rector
University of the Free State
20 February 2014

 
Note: The use of the word ‘campus’ refers to all three campuses of the UFS, namely the Bloemfontein Campus, South Campus and Qwaqwa Campus.

 

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