We are desperate for a strong SRC in Stellenbosch

2019-08-13 13:58
Die Universiteit Stellenbosch se Ou Hoofgebou. Foto: Leanne Stander

Die Universiteit Stellenbosch se Ou Hoofgebou. Foto: Leanne Stander

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In a piece earlier this year, I expressed the dire situation of leadership on Stellenbosch University campus, with leaders who have been dealing with mental health issues, or are ill equipped or unskilled in their positions. The result of this was poor leadership and a lack of productivity in many areas.

With the SRC elections nearing for Stellenbosch University for the 2019/2020 period, it is an important time for students to be politically sophisticated by considering who are the best candidates to lead and represent them. This is a crucial moment since there are many happenings on campus dealing with student access and transformation, that are under attack. 

Food, accommodation and funding

A major flaw witnessed by students this year was the crisis involving student access and the fact that students on NSFAS and similar bursaries either received their allowances late, or did not receive anything at all. This consequently led to many students' human dignity being infringed where they had to sleep in faculty computer rooms.

In response to this, many non-positional leaders and activists formed groups such as the People's Movement since they realised that #Move4Food and SRC attempts had failed for the first half of the year. It got to a point where students were put on a confidential database and were contacted by members of People's Movement to assist them in any way possible.

In defence of the outgoing SRC, they were also restricted in terms of budget and spending approvals, since the university's Student Affairs department has limited the SRC's powers and capabilities to a point where the SRC battles to even assist students. However, it is important to note that SRC members should be vigilant of decisions taken by members of management to change policies that affect the SRC and students.

Therefore, the SRC candidates must be prepared to be outspoken, critical and student-focused, who are prepared to engage with management as colleagues, and not as subordinates. There needs to be respect for the Student Representative Council structure, as it is a legally recognised structure in the Higher Education Act, and it needs to be restored to its effective entity.

Transformation vs regressiveness

2019 has been an interestingly frustrating year in terms of working towards achieving true transformation on campus. Unfortunately, discussions and topics from years ago have resurfaced, with people questioning social issues that have actually been proven through task teams and academic, research articles.

The existence of rape culture, white privilege and male privilege are realities, especially on Stellenbosch University campuses. However, people wanted to question these again this year, bringing up painful, traumatic experiences of marginalised groups, especially people of colour, and womxn.

Unfortunately, the SRC did not have a transformation officer for long, and the only transformative entities left on campus were certain student leaders, the Transformation Office and the Institutional Transformation Committee. Only certain pro-transformation student leaders were vocal about the regressive absurdities, whilst the tongues of the office and committee were tied.

The SRC, strangely enough, remained extremely quiet about this. Some members did attend meetings about these issues, but they never publicly expressed their view. However, they were strategic by condemning the Virgin Active masturbator since he was an 'easy' matter to denounce, whereas regressive forces on campus posed a difficult curveball for them.

Thus, I encourage SRC candidates to be unapologetically vocal about social justice and human rights. These are important issues which need to be tackled on our campus so that the process of transformation can continue. It is imperative that we continue following the roadmap which our Constitution has laid out for our society.

Mental health

There is now a big stigma that being involved in the SRC will cause the deterioration of students' mental health. Whilst this is debatable, many outgoing and ex-going members can attest that it is a difficult space to be in, and one should be prepared for conflict, stress, and a large workload.

Furthermore, SRC candidates should consider themselves and their well-being during their tenure, if elected. If already suffering from a mental illness, it is encouraged to visit a psychologist/therapist regularly, and those who are not suffering but need to speak to someone, it is also important.

It is clear that there are many expectations for the next SRC. There will be individuals and groups who will expect perfection, whilst many, including myself, would like to expect SRC members to see the humanity in fellow students, and want to be dutiful, impactful leaders, that will uphold the Student Constitution and ultimately, the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa.


Read more on:    stellenbosch university

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