The temporary suspension of two female students from the Heemstede Residence of Stellenbosch University (SU) involved in an alleged "blackface" incident on Friday 4 February, has been lifted.
This was on recommendation of the University's Equality Unit following an extensive investigation into the incident.
SU Management accepted the recommendation yesterday afternoon (11 February 2016) and instructed that the students should be invited to return to the residence concerned. The two students have already been welcomed back into the residence last night, and one of them was reinstated in her role as mentor.
The Equality Unit stated: "It is clear that there was no direct or indirect intention to cause offense or harm to any student or staff member at SU. There was a perception, enhanced by the impact of social media, that this was a blackface incident. This is, however, not the case."
"Management regrets the trauma that the two students, the house committee, the residence head and the residents of Heemstede experienced," SU Rector and Vice-Chancellor, Prof Wim de Villiers, said.
"Even though I am satisfied that the correct procedures were followed as per the University's Draft Policy on Unfair Discrimination and Harassment, we realise that this has been a difficult time for the two students in question. The University will continue to support them as they are reintegrated into their residence."
The verbal abuse and humiliating behaviour by some students towards fellow students and staff in the course of some interactions were unacceptable, SU Management added.
"These incidents have reaffirmed the importance of constructive dialogue on campus. All discussions should take place in the spirit of SU's central values as contained in our Institutional Intent and Strategy document, namely empathy, shared accountability, service leadership, excellence and innovation," Prof De Villiers said.
"Safe spaces for dialogue and cooperation are possible only if the whole campus community accepts a shared responsibility for liberating our community from intimidation, manipulation, threats, hate speech, racism, sexism, homophobia and other forms of unfair discrimination and dehumanisation," he said.
- Students in need of counselling can call the Crisis Service on 082 5570 880, while discrimination, victimisation and harassment can be reported anonymously at the Equality Unit via e-mail (firstname.lastname@example.org) or telephone (021 808 3136).