Rhodes criticises 'misrepresentation of facts' around student expulsions

2017-12-13 21:30
Rhodes University. (Supplied)

Rhodes University. (Supplied)

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Cape Town – Rhodes University insists the two students who were expelled for life from the university were penalised for "committing criminal acts" during a protest against gender discrimination and sexual violence in 2016 and not for their participation in the protest.

In a comprehensive statement released on Tuesday, the university said there had been a "gross misrepresentation of facts and attempts at manipulating public opinion" surrounding the events on the Grahamstown campus which took place under the #RUReferenceList banner. 

The university said a High Court ruling found that the "illegal actions" during the protests "made serious inroads into the rights and liberties of others". 

'Kidnapped, humiliated and tormented'

Additionally, none of those kidnapped by the accused at the time were found guilty of "any form of sexual misconduct or rape" by the university and the National Prosecuting Authority. 

"Students were kidnapped, humiliated and tormented on the strength of an equivocal list published on social media by anonymous author(s) in which no allegation of rape against them had been made," the statement reads. 

The university said it distinguished between "the necessary vigorous pursuit of a common objective to eliminate sexual and gender-based violence on the one hand, and abusing such a noble cause as a cover to commit acts of criminality, which serve to undermine the noble struggle".

University 'grossly unfair'

The university's statement followed days of debate on social media during which sections of the online community described the institution as patriarchal and biased for expelling students for protesting gender issues. 

Speaking to News24 on Tuesday, one of the expelled students said the disciplinary action was "grossly unfair" and biased against her.

"They (Rhodes University) are proving our point. They are proving our point for the very reason that we took to the streets on that night," Yolanda Dyantyi, 20, said. 

Dyantyi plans to appeal her disciplinary outcome in the Eastern Cape High Court in Grahamstown. 

"You know, Rhodes just doesn't care about women. It doesn't care about black women. It stands against rape culture and wanting to combat [rape culture]."

The university's decision also drew criticism from the student wing of the EFF and the DA's former youth leader Mbali Ntuli. 

Obligation to 'maintain safe environment'

In the statement, Rhodes University said the chairperson of the disciplinary committee found "the university is under an obligation to create and maintain a safe environment for all its students".  

"Protest action is a constitutionally entrenched right, which is respected and indeed supported by the university, so long as it is exercised lawfully. Rhodes will protect these rights for everyone," the institution said. 

"What the university cannot protect and what the law does not protect, however, is unlawful conduct and the undermining of the rights and liberties of others.

Read more on:    rhodes university  |  sexual abuse  |  university protests  |  education

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