8 June 2021
Dear member of the SU community
I want to provide you with a personal update on our recent appearance before the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC).
Having received complaints from the Freedom Front Plus and the Democratic Alliance about an alleged prohibition on the use of Afrikaans at Stellenbosch University (SU), the SAHRC held a hearing at STIAS on 10 May 2021.
My full statement made on the day is available here, but the main points follow below.
The problem arose at the start of the academic year in March, when student leaders in residence apparently requested newcomer first-years to use English only, to ensure that everyone had access to crucial information.
In a complex environment such as a large university, mistakes can happen. If newcomer students were indeed asked to stick to English in a social context, that would be wrong, as it is not our policy. To the contrary, our Language Policy (www.sun.ac.za/language) advances multilingualism, taking into account the diversity of our society and the intellectual wealth inherent in that diversity.
So, when the allegations came to the fore, we expeditiously investigated. And we took immediate remedial action. Through our Division of Student Affairs, we engaged with student leaders and students in residences to work towards a common understanding of the Language Policy and its implementation.
Let me be very clear: There is no ban on Afrikaans at SU – not in lecture halls, in residences, or anywhere else on campus. SU is a national asset. We are proud of our contribution to human development, and are confident that our students have more choices, broader access and a better future as a result of our approach to language.
I undertake to keep you informed in this regard, and we will share new developments with you as the process unfolds. As always, I am available for further discussion.
Let me conclude with good news. We are pleased to report that SU has broken its own record for the most qualifications ever awarded at the institution in an academic year. The latest figures show that the University conferred 9 234 degrees, certificates and diplomas in 2020 – up from the previous record of 9 133 set in 2019. (Click here to read more.)
This is a remarkable achievement, considering the difficulties caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. It speaks volumes for SU's ability to be agile, as well as for the can-do attitude of our staff and students.
We would not have been able to manage this without your backing and encouragement. Thank you for your ongoing support.
Let us now go forward together, saam vorentoe, sonke siya phambili!
Prof Wim de Villiers
Rector and Vice-Chancellor