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29 January 2019 | Story Xolisa Mnukwa | Photo Anja Aucamp
Prof Francis Petersen speech
“We can create an institution that operates and lives in the times of embracing and celebrating diversity, inclusivity, and academic excellence by ensuring that students own their time at university,” said Prof Francis Petersen.

25 January 2019 marked the official welcoming of the University of the Free State’s (UFS) first-year students, as they moved into their respective residences and were warmly welcomed on the UFS Bloemfontein Campus. This day also marked the start of the registration process for first-year students.

According to first-year Psychology student Keisha Claasen, who moved into her residence earlier on 25 January, her first experience of the UFS was daunting but exciting, as she had never been in a similar environment. According to Given Gwerera, who dropped his son off at the Karee residence earlier the day, “the UFS is an institution with great culture and an overall good academic record.” He further explained that he trusts his son to make full use of the opportunities presented to him, as he has a cool head on his shoulders.

On the evening of 25 January, an eager group of millennials, joined by their parents, took the first sip from their cup of varsity life as they assembled on the Red Square of the Bloemfontein Campus to meet the Rector and Vice-Chancellor, Prof Francis Petersen, members of Rectorate, the deans of all faculties, and the Student Representative Council (SRC) of the UFS.

“2019 will be a year of continued change; the UFS is thrilled about the prospect of bringing about opportunities for adaptation and realignment to the future,” said Prof Francis Petersen.

He further explained that the university prides itself in moulding its students into well-rounded individuals who will develop into globally competitive graduates as required in a diversity of landscapes. Prof Petersen urged first-years to remain open to the technological developments that go with globalisation, because of its permanent effects on society today.

First-years were further advised to take advantage of the rich pool of academic research and knowledge that is characteristic of the university and is piloted by UFS scholars, by engaging with and learning from them.

The inspiring night concluded on a colourful note, as the audience enjoyed an artistic laser show in front of the Main Building. Caption:

“UFS academics conduct research that forces the world to take note,” said Prof Francis Petersen at the official first-year welcoming ceremony on the UFS Bloemfontein Campus.

News Archive

International speakers discuss diversity
2014-02-11

 
Dr Charles Alexander from UCLA
Photo: O'Ryan Heideman

International and local experts recently gathered on the Bloemfontein Campus to deliberate over the topic of diversity.

Student participation and mobility dramatically increased in higher education worldwide. Cultural, political, economic and social factors on a national and global scale, have brought the reality of diversity into the operational spaces of Higher Education Institutions. These challenges are not exclusive to South Africa, though. In the Netherlands and USA, universities are also challenged by the demands of an increasingly diverse student population.

Prof Jonathan Jansen, Vice-Chancellor and Rector of the UFS, acted as one of the keynote speakers during a two-day colloquium hosted by the Institute for Reconciliation and Social Justice. In an impelling address, Prof Jansen argued that change cannot be affected on a university campus if the surrounding community does not change as well. He also noted the spread of a culture of silence surrounding issues of misbehaviour. He urged that we need to find courage again to speak out. From the level of government, media and churches to the private spaces of our homes, we have to co-create an environment of care.

This message closely tied in with that of Prof Shirley Tate’s from the University of Leeds. In her keynote, she asserted that mere tolerance of someone different from you can lead to even more alienation. The path to true reconciliation is grounded in the intimacy of friendship. Friendship and empathy lead to trust and transcend racism.

Another keynote speaker from abroad, Dr Charles Alexander from the University of California, delineated a model for inclusive excellence. He explained that the major problem of true transformation is not due to a lack of ideas, but in the implementation thereof. “Realities of implementation short circuit the change process,” he said. He explained how campus environments can adapt in order to support and enhance lasting inclusivity.

We have to become complicit in the process of transformation, Prof Dr Ghorashi, Professor of Diversity and Integration at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, conveyed. Linking up with the issue of silence, she demonstrated the power of speaking out, using examples from her extensive research among victims of violence. It is imperative, she maintains, that for transformation to materialise, we need to create safe spaces in which we can share our vulnerabilities.

Footnote: Due to unfortunate circumstances, both Prof Dr Ghorashi and Prof Shirley Tate could not personally attend the colloquium as planned. Their respective keynotes were read to the audience on their behalf.

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