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Deslene Prins

The Stellenbosch University (SU) Equality Unit hosted two guests from New York University’s Office of Global Inclusion, Diversity and Strategic Innovation: Dr. Lisa Coleman, the Senior Vice President, and Monroe France, the Associate vice president. The goal of this meeting was a strategic networking opportunity to help further the university’s aim to promote internationalism.

“New York University is ranked as one of the top universities internationally and they have multiple campuses globally, so we were quite interested in seeing how they systemically managed issues of equality and discrimination,” said Jaco Greeff Brink, Head of the Equality Unit. The Unit as it stands currently is quite young, with their third birthday being on 1 December.

The Unit is therefore open to ‘benchmarking’ or learning from as many sources and institutions as possible. Besides working with New York University, the unit has also benchmarked with Oxford University, Derby University, the University of Zambia and several of our ‘sister’ universities in South Africa. This is so that members of Stellenbosch University can log official or unofficial complaints whether it pertains to gender-based violence, LGBTQIA+ and HIV discrimination or harassment of any sort.

They are equally excited to announce she launch of their new website, Thetha, which they hope will launch early next year. Thetha will be a webpage where people will be able to log any complaints they may have online within the comfort and safety of their own space. According to Greeff Brink, the Unit started out as the Institutional HIV Office. The Institutional HIV Office’s main aim was to look at the university’s HIV policy and at what was required for a comprehensive institutional HIV response.

It included work involving gender, sexuality, LGBTQIA+ support, and HIV testing and prevention. Then, three years ago, the decision  was made to restructure and reform the Institutional HIV Office into the Equality Unit. The Institutional HIV  Office expanded from their HIV and sexuality portfolios to include a port- folio on unfair discrimination, sexual harassment and victimization, giving us the Equality Unit as we know ittoday.

Practically, the Equality Unit has American visitors at SU’s equality unit an unfair discrimination, harassment and sexual harassment portfolio; an HIV and sexualities portfolio; and a gender non-violence portfolio. Officially and unofficially, the Unit provides mediation in these areas. The Unit also looks at possible alternative dispute resolutions to find ways to move forward without formal disciplinary processes, depending on what the client requests.

The HIV and sexualities portfolio aids in condom distribution, HIV testing opportunities, and providing support to LGBTQIA+ students.

Photo: Armin Prinsloo

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