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Deans meet with students at Diversity Week event
Author: Stephanie Nieuwoudt
Published: 01/10/2014

Eight deans faced the drizzle on Tuesday 30 September to chat with students on the Rooiplein as part of the "Hang out with your Dean" item on Stellenbosch University's Diversity Week programme.

This item was hosted by the Frederik Van Zyl Slabbert Institute for Student Leadership Development.

Prof Louise Warnich, Dean of the Faculty of Science was bombarded with questions ranging from a feeling that staff members are sometimes unapproachable to the desirability of including subjects from other faculties in the science programme.

Warnich kicked off the conversation by emphasising the need to be polite in all written communications.

She said that a colleague at Leuven University in Belgium, who deals with application requests, simply rejects all communication that starts with "Hi…" and does not follow proper salutation conventions.

"I have realised that it is important to be respectful – whether it is to the person cleaning the laboratory or the head of a department," said Warnich.

Second-year student Aldine Deelman, said that she initially felt strange when she came to study at Stellenbosch University, but although she is not too keen on the "skakels", she did get to meet new people at these events and she learnt to "sakkie-sakkie".

She believes the "skakels" can be improved by "asking students what they expect of these events".

Fourth-year student Rhulani Ngobeni who is also a member of the Science Student Committee, said she cried every day for months because she felt that she was not welcome at her residence.

"However, I adapted and I became a mentor to help others who felt the way that I initially did."

Warnich who is one of only three female deans at SU, said she did not feel discriminated against, although she was used to being part of a minority.

"Many years ago I was the one and only female lecturer in the Department of Genetics. You sometimes have to realise that you have to be the first so that others can follow you."​

At the table where Prof Sonia Human, Dean of the Faculty of Law interacted with students, there was open discussion, friendly debate and collective problem solving, writes Emily van der Merwe, law student and coordinator of the Discourse Cafés at the FVZS Institute.

Well-known for her approachable manner and willingness to interact with students, Human made the most of the opportunity by not only answering, but also asking some questions of the law students around her table.

Topics of discussion ranged from the faculty's language policy, theoretical vs. practical approach, the value of legal pedagogy and the need for critical discussion among students. Human enquired whether the faculty's "welcoming culture" was up to scratch, to which the students replied that the law faculty is perhaps the most welcoming and inclusive of all faculties, due to the many social opportunities on offer. The value of mentorship within the faculty was emphasised by the students.

  • During lunchtime the comedienne Anne Hirsch made the audience laugh when she interviewed Pieter Kloppers, Director: Student Structures and Communities and S'thembile Cele, a journalism student. Responding to the question about what he would like to change at SU, Kloppers said he would like to build enough residences so that all students could be accommodated. Cele said the one thing she learnt during her time at SU was 'resilience'.

  • Photo: SSFD​