Stellenbosch University
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Statement on Wilgenhof Report
Author: Corporate Communication and Marketing / Korporatiewe Kommunikasie en Bemarking
Published: 21/06/2024

​Stellenbosch University (SU) cnfirms that its Rectorate has received and considered the final report of the Panel appointed to review the Wilgenhof Residence matter.

The Rectorate has unanimously accepted the principal recommendation of the Panel that the Wilgenhof Residence should be closed. The Rector will now recommend to Council that Wilgenhof Residence should be closed and that alternative uses be considered for the buildings.  Council will consider the Rector's recommendations at its meeting of 24 June 2024. The Panel's redacted report can be accessed here.

The Panel was appointed by the Rectorate following the discovery of disturbing contents found in two rooms of the Wilgenhof Residence.

The Panel, chaired by an experienced Advocate from the Cape Bar, assisted by a former experienced university executive in higher education, and the Deputy Registrar for Governance, Ethics and Compliance at SU, was tasked to investigate the contents found during an audit of the spaces and amenities of the Residence and to report to the Rectorate on its findings and recommendations. 

The discovery of the contents and appointment of the Panel follow SU's consistent affirmation of its position on ensuring the dignity of all our students and staff, and a commitment to eradicate unacceptable practices from our campuses and SU student accommodation.

According to its Terms of Reference, the Panel was mandated to conduct an investigation into the contents of the two rooms with the following objectives:

  • To draw an understanding of the historical, cultural and symbolic dimensions of the contents and functions of the two rooms and to consider this against the background of enculturation practices of Wilgenhof Residence, and to advise the Rectorate accordingly;
  • To consider in detail the significance of the contents and functions of the two rooms within the broader institutional culture and operations of SU residences;
  • To assess if and to what extent the records, practices and general culture of Wilgenhof are inimical to the values of the University and may involve encroachment on the human dignity of current and past SU students and staff;
  • To establish whether unacceptable practices and Wilgenhof over time have been protected or covered up by the University staff, alumni or students; and
  • To assess whether there is evidence of conduct in contravention of any SU policies, regulations, rules or the Disciplinary Code for Students of SU bypassed and/or current student leadership and/or management of Wilgenhof.

Over the years, governance documents were reviewed and amended several times as the University fully embraced transformation and tackled injustices of the past. Since 2003, SU has worked hard in addressing historical systemic problems within the residence spaces and to adapt, transform, and change the culture, mindset, and practices so as to be aligned with the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa and its principles, including that of human dignity. This was done by way of, amongst others, management's commitment to SU's vision and values, extensive conversations with students, thorough training of student leaders, workshops, mentor programmes, and new policies, rules and regulations for student communities. These include revised residence rules (2021), a revised Disciplinary Code for Students of SU (2021), a new residence placement policy (2023), as well as a new Regulation for the Appointment of Residence Heads (2023).

In addition, one of the workstreams of the University's Committee for the Institutional Response to the Commission's Recommendations (CIRCoRe), which was established in 2023 to address the recommendations of the Khampepe Report, focuses on the entire spectrum of student life and develops proposals to align the practices of all University environments responsible for facilitating an inclusive and welcoming student experience at the University.

Prof Wim de Villiers comments: “As the Rector of this premier African research-intensive higher education institution, I want to assure all our staff, students, and parents that we will remain unwavering in our commitment to being a welcoming and inclusive centre of excellence. Given the body of evidence presented by our expert panel, we have accepted its main recommendation that closure of the Wilgenhof residence is the appropriate action going forward."

Prof De Villiers concludes: “This recommendation, on the recommendation of the Panel, if accepted by Council, will result in the closure of Wilgenhof at the end of the 2024 academic year. Alternative uses of the space will be discussed with a view to be effected during 2025."

The Rectorate will revert in due course on the other recommendations in the report , amongst them the recommendations that could be embedded in the CIRCoRE process.