We've come a long way - rector

2008-02-28 21:52

Bloemfontein - Transformation at the University of the Free State (UFS) already has come a long way, says Rector Frederick Fourie.

Fourie said on Wednesday the university had been commended in the past, in the early 1990s, as one of the Afrikaans universities which had made the most progress in terms of transformation.

Fourie said hostel integration was tackled in the late 1990s but was dropped after student clashes and possible "bloodshed".

He said after a decision was taken at the time, by black and white students with management, the process was put on hold.

He said the students and management resolved that housing would be on a "free association" basis.

He said a "sort of" gravitational process had resulted in "basically white and basically black" residences.

Black men's hostels

Fourie said the free association agreement - in hindsight - was never intended to be a permanent arrangement.

The UFS announced last year that it would tackle on-campus hostel integration by setting a 30% diversity target in its junior residences.

Fourie said black men's hostels the step was successful in most hostels except in predominantly where no white men took up their allocated placing.

Referring to the racial video which had triggered widespread condemnation this week, Fourie said the university's management was not in denial regarding the problem of race.

"We are tackling it honestly in saying we must get beyond our legacy of racially-determined thinking in the whole country."

Fourie said in the past three years the university had debated what it "truly" meant to be a nonracial university and was not interested in just "mixing people".

He said the making of the video could be a sign that "transformation was starting to bite".

Fourie said the video incident might be an isolated incident, but it was not an isolated attitude in people.

"It is a challenge we have as a university, but also as a country," said Fourie.