‘Is love colour-blind?’ Students see red over UCT’s beauty poll

2013-04-05 00:00

CAPE TOWN — The University of Cape Town (UCT) student newspaper Varsity News has attracted a vitriolic response on Twitter after it recently published a pie chart polling the most attractive race at the university.

Titled “UCT votes on most attractive race”, the chart lists the races as Caucasian, Indian, coloured, African, Asian, and “mixed”.

According to the chart, detailing a poll among 60 students, the majority (38%) thought that Caucasians were the most attractive race, while the fewest (eight percent) thought that Africans were the most attractive race. Other races garnered 10-20% each.

In an open letter to the editor of Varsity News in response to the “Is Love Colour-blind?” article and attached poll, the students’ representative council (SRC) said the issues raised needed to be talked about, not swept under the carpet.

SRC president Lorne Hallendorff said the student body “cannot condone the manner in which a very sensitive issue has been approached”.

“We stand by the values of UCT’s mission statement, which states that we should ‘strive to provide an environment for our diverse student and staff community that is affirming and inclusive of all staff and students and promotes diversity’.

“We believe that any media body has a responsibility to consider the context in which it exists and the sensitivity of the issues on which it reports. In the case of this particular matter, greater sensitivity should have been shown to an issue that has painful historical significance.

“To draw conclusions from a poll of 60 people fails any real statistical requirements. While we understand that this is a flash poll in which the race of the participants was disclosed, on a matter as sensitive as this there is an onus on the person conducting the research to comply with various statistical methods to ensure the validity of the results.

“The SRC is forced to dismiss the poll results as lacking any statistical merit whatsoever.”

Some Twitter users, including human rights activist Zackie Achmat, voiced their disapproval. @ZackieAchmat referred to the chart as “racist nonsense”. Another user, @ednake89 tweeted “this is the kind of bullsh*t UCT’s Varsity newspaper publishes”.

The chart was published alongside an article on interracial dating by UCT student Qamran Tabo, who interviewed 60 people — 10 from each racial group.

Varsity News editor Alex Nagel said the article was a commentary on how race affects social structure in the post-apartheid era.

She defended the decision to publish the article, telling News24: “It was an opinion piece and was taken out of context. Varsity News is a space for people to discuss issues and society.

“Many students at the university have received the article negatively and feel attacked and offended,” she said. The newspaper has decided to issue a formal apology.

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