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07 May 2019 | Story Valentino Ndaba | Photo Charl Devenish
Noko Masalesa
Noko Masalesa, Director of Protection Services, in conversation with students and stakeholders to plan a safe way forward.

Safety and security are human rights that constitute social justice. At the centre of the agenda at the University of the Free State’s (UFS) Social Justice Week held on the Bloemfontein Campus from 17-22 April 2019 were discussions about off-campus safety. Stakeholders agreed on an upgrade to security measures in order to ensure the success and wellbeing of the student population.

A call to students

Prof John Mubangizi, Dean of the Faculty of Law, in his capacity as representative of the UFS Rector and Vice-Chancellor, Prof Francis Petersen, expressed his view on institutions of higher learning no longer functioning as ivory towers. “For any initiative to succeed, collaboration is necessary between key roleplayers,” he said.

He aptly pointed out that: “We cannot underscore the importance of safety and security, not only for the university but also for the communities around us. What the university does benefits the community and vice versa. I pledge the university’s commitment to play a leading part to ensure that the collaboration works,” said Prof Mubangizi.

Beefing up security: Who is involved?

In view of the collaborative effort Prof Mubangizi alluded to, the engagement was twofold. First was the roundtable discussion facilitated by Protection Services which then escalated into a public dialogue where students had the opportunity to interact with external delegates.

The South African Police Services, Community Police Forum, Private Security, Mangaung Metropolitan Municipality, Provincial Commissioner, and Deputy Minister of Police were well represented in this critical conversation. Internally, members of Protection Services, Housing and Residence Affairs, Student Affairs, Institute for Social Justice and Reconciliation, Student Representative Council, and the Department of Criminology heard the plight of off-campus safety faced by students.

Changes in the horizon

The discussions culminated with recommendations which will see the future of student safety take a different direction. According to Skhululekile Luwaca, former SRC president, these include “the municipality’s commitment to immediately address issues such as street lights and enforcing by-laws, ensuring an integrated accreditation system, and drafting a policy for off-campus accommodation, running more crime awareness campaigns, and giving police patrols more visibility.”

In addition to resolving to set up a student safety forum with all the stakeholders, the Mangaung Metropolitan Municipality has invited the UFS to join Reclaim the City – a safety forum where practical solutions to crime are devised and implemented on a weekly basis.


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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