As part of its efforts to cultivate a transformative Stellenbosch University (SU), the Division for Student Affairs (DSAf) hosted its first-ever DSAf Transformation Summit.
The summit, held at the Stellenbosch Institute for Advance Study (STIAS), shed some light on the various transformation issues staff and students faced on a daily basis on the various SU campuses. Students representing different organisations had an opportunity to reflect on what transformation meant to them.
In his welcoming address, Professor Arnold Schoonwinkel, SU's Vice-Rector: Teaching and Learning, said the 2020 Student Transformation Summit was an important event for the University to continue what it had learned and achieved since 2018.
“There are crucial summits and indabas within our student communities that work relentlessly to change unacceptable cultures and behaviours, such as gender-based violence and rape culture, homophobia, xenophobia, toxic masculinity, dehumanisation of newcomers and overt and covert racism."
He said his wish for the summit was that as management, staff and students they would bravely expose these issues and join hands to bring about transformation and change.
“This summit must be more than another talk shop or merely a pointing of fingers, hoping that someone else will affect the changes. Let us not fall into the trap of stereotyping others who are trying to contribute as we strive to protect the vulnerable," he said.
Prof Schoonwinkel said each one had to roll up their sleeves and remain open for their own transformation. “It would indeed take hard work together to achieve real transformation.
“I know we can count on my colleagues at the Division for Student Affairs and their leader, Dr Choice Makhetha, to facilitate a conducive transformation process at this summit and beyond," he added.
At the summit students raised a number of concerns regarding a transformative student experience. Issues highlighted at the summit included gender-based violence, homophobia, racism and access for students living with disabilities.
The Chairperson of the Transformation Forum at DSAf, Yeki Mosomothane, said the idea was that they would annually reflect on their own idea of transformation as the Division for Student Affairs, especially taking into account the University's vision of a transformative student experience.
Mosomothane said they wanted the staff within their division to open themselves up to different lived experiences and to have those difficult transformation conversations while reflecting as a collective.
“We invited student leaders like Guiseppe Guierande from the Anti-GBV Movement, Jeff Ngobeni from the Student Representative Council, Luigia Nicholas from DisMatie and Chante Arab from QueersU to speak on their vision of a transformative student experience.
“The summit wants to hear from those student who are often marginalised on the campuses – voices that are integral to co-creating a transformative student experience with the Division and the University at large," was the message from Mosomothane.
Tonia Overmeyer, the Director of Centre for Student Leadership and Structures, told audience members to listen with empathy, to listen beyond their own lenses, to listen beyond the roles they serve in society, to listen beyond their social construct and to listen with their humanity.