UP students are unhappy with racial dynamics in residences

Students at the University of Pretoria (UP) held a mass meeting last week to complain about a lack of inclusivity and what they say is the university’s failure to accommodate black students at its residences. According to student newspaper Perdeby, students complained that the university racial quota for accepting students into residences was an “unfair split” of 50% white and 50% “other” students.

One student who the Daily Vox spoke to this week also claimed that certain white students, children of alumni, received first preference when it came to choosing residences or rooms.

UP’s media spokesperson, Candice Jooste, disputed students’ claims that the university had a racial quota for accepting students into residences or that children of alumni were given preference when it came to residence or room allocation. “Our racial demographics in our residences are currently sitting at 60.32% black and 39.68% white,” she said. 

“Students are placed in residences according to the date of their application.”

Despite the growing number of black students in residences on campus, many of these students say they are made to feel inferior because of their race.

Accounting science student and former res chairperson Darrol Drabile said he was shocked by the “whiteness” of the university. 

“It made me question whether my identity would be accepted or not”, he said. Drabile said that in his first year, students at his residence were made to greet a statue of a dog every time they entered the building.

“People started getting yelled at for pronouncing Afrikaans words wrong or if they didn’t ‘greet’ the statue of the dog the right way,” he said.

Drabile said there has seen progress in some residences since then. He said his res’s acceptance quota this year stipulated 115 blacks students to 110 white students. Still, he thinks there’s still a long way to go in terms of accommodating black students in residences.

Law student Refiloe Mafokeng also says students are constantly made to feel inferior because of their race. “The white students don’t see the difference between black people. They don’t care about the fact that we have Tsonga blacks, Xhosa blacks and so forth. This one time, a white Afrikaner girl asked me what the difference was,” she said. Mafokeng added that the “white culture” at UP doesn’t accommodateblack students.

But some students feel it’s not primarily the university’s duty to promote racial inclusivity in residences. Development studies student Sean Muza feels that students in res who refuse to accept transformation at the university should also be held accountable. “People who benefit from the racial structures in res refuse to accept change and we also need to make sure that they also conform to transformation,” he concluded.

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