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SU Language Policy remains unchanged as good governance & management practice - not due to political pressure
Author: Corporate Communication and Marketing / Korporatiewe Kommunikasie en Bemarking
Published: 30/11/2022

​Stellenbosch University (SU) recently received the report of the Khampepe independent commission of inquiry into alleged racism at the University from Judge Sisi Virginia Khampepe, a retired judge of the Constitutional Court of South Africa. The SU leadership is still reviewing the Commission's report and recommendations in detail. SU remains committed to considering its recommendations to strengthen the campus community as diverse, inclusive, and a place of belonging where world-class research and learning can flourish.

In at least one media article during the course of the past week as well as during the media conference following the release of the report, Prof Wim de Villiers, Rector and Vice-Chancellor, reiterated that no change in the SU language policy is foreseen as the review process was completed in 2021. The implementation of the reviewed policy started in January 2022. The language policy has been legally confirmed as being constitutionally sound. It is not due to any external influencing but thanks to sound governance principles of the University as a well-managed institution with clear regulations and policies. This was confirmed during a Council meeting of which the proceedings and content are confidential as per the Code of Conduct for Council members. Celebratory statements claiming that some recommendations have been overturned due to political intervention, are simply incorrect and is not in adherence with this code of conduct.

The prevailing language policy at SU celebrates the creative value of diversity of the speakers of the official languages of instruction used at SU. It is in line with the DHET National guidelines for multilinguism at universities. The rights of Afrikaans, English and isiXhosa, and their speakers will be protected in the multilingual approach of the University as a commitment to the implementation of our language policy, and not due to any external political or other interventions.

As opposed to reported claims, the Khampepe Commission recommendations deal predominantly with the informal use of the languages and how everyday use should foster greater inclusivity. SU will promote a more inclusive language approach amongst the informal campus society in the spirit of the University's values and in line with the SU's very strong stance against any form of racism or prejudice.

Claims that SU is adopting biased views against some recommendations due to external influence and pressure are blatantly opportunistic and fuel divisive opinion and undermine the University's unwavering efforts to foster an inclusive environment where people of all languages and backgrounds can find their home for higher education at the institution.

SU must point out that the Commission's report and recommendations are still under review, and the adoption and implementation of or adjusted reaction to recommendations have not been finalised. The work of the Commission was fully independent, its opinions were highly credible, and SU respects the outcomes of the report. The best interest of the entire SU community and the well-being of our students and staff is the determining factor in the deeper reading of the report in the sincere spirit of inclusivity and belonging.

The University leadership requested an independent Khampepe commission of inquiry into alleged racism at the University in May this year as part of SU's commitment to root out racism and discrimination. The full report of the Commission was posted on the SU website and is freely available to the public visitors to the website in the interest of transparency in a sincere quest for a better and more inclusive resolution on our campuses. The University urges commentators to read the report in full before making selective comments or claims about the adoption or rejection of any recommendations, in part or whole.

It is noteworthy that the Commission found that the University's transformation programmes adhere to the principles of the South African Constitution of dignity, healing, social justice, freedom and equality, but also recommended that more work still be done to avoid systemic racism and prejudice. Everyone, regardless of race or class, has a role to play at SU without fear or favour, standing and working together towards a mutually beneficial, united South Africa.

The careful consideration of the report is enjoying leadership priority. Decisive action and more announcements as appropriate will follow as progress is made.