Independent probe into handling of Stellenbosch 'blackface' furore

2016-02-18 11:32
The image of Poekie Briedenhann and her friend at a space-themed party which gave the appearance of 'black/brown' paint initially. (Twitter)

The image of Poekie Briedenhann and her friend at a space-themed party which gave the appearance of 'black/brown' paint initially. (Twitter)

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Maties unit investigates 'blackface'

2016-02-05 18:01

The newly-formed Equality Unit at Stellenbosch University is investigating an incident at one of its female residences this week. Two white students appear in a photograph, their bodies and faces covered in dark pigment at a social event.WATCH

Cape Town – An independent commissioner will be appointed to investigate how Stellenbosch University handled an incident in which two students were wrongly accused of wearing "blackface".

"My management and I have taken note of the trauma that the incident had caused to, especially the two students involved and their parents, but also to other students and staff," Rector and Vice Chancellor Wim de Villiers said on Thursday.

"We have expressed our regret in this regard."

Controversy erupted on social media after the pair posted a picture of themselves in what appeared at the time to be dark paint, possibly brown or black, and were subsequently accused of donning "blackface".

One of them took to social media to apologise for any offence the picture had caused, but emphasised that they had been dressed up as purple aliens for a space-themed residence party.

The university placed the two on temporary suspension while it investigated the incident.

University management lifted the suspension a week ago on recommendation of the Equality Unit.


De Villiers said he noted the outcry on social media, the media and from a large number of people who wrote to the university over how the matter was addressed.

"As a university, we are consistently committed to acting fairly, efficiently, transparently and in alignment with our values of excellence, innovation, shared accountability, empathy and service leadership," he said.

"Self-evaluation and critical analysis form part of the academic ethos and, accordingly, the university will continue to seek the most constructive process to deal with situations such as the one at Heemstede [residence]."

He said the commissioner would investigate the incident, as well as the subsequent handling of it. Findings and recommendations would then be presented to management.

The university said further information would be released once the commissioner had accepted the appointment.

Read more on:    stellenbosch university  |  wim de villiers  |  cape town  |  racism  |  education

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