Varsity struggles with race

2008-02-13 09:58

Bloemfontein - The University of the Free State (UFS) was investigating new ways to convince white male students to take up their allocated places in predominantly black residential hostels on its main campus, a spokesperson said on Tuesday.

UFS spokesperson Anton Fisher confirmed that the university was battling to get white male students to move into mainly black hostels in line with its transformation policy.

"We (university management) are on a continuing basis monitoring the situation and discussing the issues with students and student leaders."

Fisher was reacting to a statement by the Freedom Front Plus (FF Plus) in the Free State which said that the university's integration targets had not been reached and that no white males and about 5% of white females had apparently moved into traditionally black residences.

The UFS announced last year that it would implement a new racial policy for its campus residences by setting a 30% diversity level in all junior hostels in terms of race, language and other criteria.

Fisher said the university was constantly investigating ways to convince all students to take up their allocated places in residences.

One of the ways being considered was to ask senior students, second and third year students, to take the place of those that stayed away.

FF Plus leader Abrie Oosthuizen said many beds in residences, which had been ear-marked for integration, were now standing empty.

This meant that the UFS was losing money as a result of its policy of forced integration.

Oosthuizen said this was despite a huge effort by the UFS to make the policy work.

"Just as the FF Plus had warned, the university authorities are now accomplishing the exact opposite of that which they had planned for.

"The UFS did not reckon in the natural powers of diversity."

Fisher said management knew that the integration policy would be "difficult and not easy".

"We also knew there would be a transitional period."

Fisher predicted that the situation would become better within the next year or two.

He said by then the university's structures and processes to handle the transformation would also run more smoothly.

"It will take time," said Fisher.

Professor Frederick Fourie, Rector for the UFS, earlier indicated that diversity targets had been reached in most of the formerly white residence, except one.