Red faces for blackface claims over purple face students
The suspension of two female students from the Heemstede Residence at Stellenbosch University involved in the alleged “blackface” incident last Friday has been lifted.
This was recommended of the University’s Equality Unit following an investigation into the “blackface” claims. The two students were actually dressed as purple aliens at a space-themed residence party.
Rector and vice-chancellor Wim de Villiers said: “Management regrets the trauma that the two students‚ the house committee‚ the residence head and the residents of Heemstede experienced.”
University spokesman Martin Viljoen said management accepted the recommendation on Thursday afternoon and instructed that the students be invited to return to the residence. They returned that night‚ and one was reinstated in her role as mentor.
“It is clear that there was no direct or indirect intention to cause offence or harm to any student or staff member at SU‚” the Equality Unit said in its recommendation. “There was a perception‚ enhanced by the impact of social media‚ that this was a ‘blackface’ incident. This is‚ however‚ not the case.”
De Villiers added: “Even though I am satisfied that the correct procedures were followed as per the policy‚ 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 said.
“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‚” De Villiers said.
“Safe spaces for dialogue and co-operation 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.