The English Department at Stellenbosch University vehemently denounces the reprehensible act carried out by a student this week in Huis Marais residence. This racist act lacks regard for Black life, integrity, and safety.
The University’s actions affect the academic, psychological, emotional, spiritual, and physical wellbeing of all students and staff, and in this case particularly Black students and Black staff who identify with the student whose valuables and humanity were defiled: we are affected by this violence and wish to act as a community in support of the victimised student.
As scholars and teachers who among other things work in the field of Critical Race Theory, we understand and are impacted by the connections between this event and the rise of extreme white nationalism internationally. On the same day of the incident in the SU residence, ten Black people were indiscriminately shot and killed by a white nationalist in Buffalo in the USA. These events must be seen as constituting a constellation of global anti-black threat and death from which we are not exempt.
We advocate for the motion to expel the student in question indefinitely. Further, the student’s actions must be flagged as intolerant and racist: his vile and violent actions should be categorically repudiated by this and any other institution, as opposed to eliciting a mere slap on the wrist.
The English Department takes an antiracist position. This position does not only distance itself from racist behaviour, but actively renounces it by articulating a stance of zero-tolerance underpinned by clearly stated measures to be taken against anyone who infringes upon another’s constitutional and human rights, sense of safety and integrity, and undermines their cultural identity.
Considering the history of Stellenbosch University and the various prior incidences of racism, it is critical that we both affirm the clear position expressed here and work towards programmes at the first-year level that encourage critical thinking about race and racism. This must be a priority and is best located in the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences.
Students need to hear immediately from their lecturers that initiatives are being taken to keep them safe. Black South African families who are thinking about registering their children at Stellenbosch University in the future need to know that the university is a safe space of learning for their children.
Department of English, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, Stellenbosch University.
20th May 2022