BY CARLA VISAGIE
After allegations of sexual misconduct have been levelled against three members of the Stellenbosch University (SU) Student Representative Council (SRC) when their term commenced in 2019, the Extraordinary Sexual Harassment Advisory Panel concluded that there are no grounds for disciplinary action against the accused individuals.
The Panel, that is housed by the SU Equality unit and whose investigation into the allegations has played a part in delaying the election of an SRC executive committee for the 2019/2020 term, has now advised the SRC to continue with the proceedings to elect, amongst others, a chairperson and vice chairperson, according to Dr Choice Makhetha, Senior Director of Student Affairs.
The election date for the executive committee provided to Die Matie by the SRC is set for 7 February, during the first week of class. The original election was set to happen on 5 September last year.
The SRC did not respond to inquiries from Die Matie on whether all members of the SRC would be allowed to stand for the executive committee.
In an email sent out to SU students on 17 January, Makhetha called on students to be diligent when using social media to publicly make allegations of sexual misconduct or sexual harassment.
“The University will act firmly and decisively against any person who is guilty of any form of unfair discrimination, gender-based violence and sexual harassment. Equally so, it will act firmly and decisively against any party who raises unsubstantiated and baseless allegations of this nature,” Makhetha wrote.
According to Jaco Greeff Brink, Head of the Equality Unit, the home of the Extraordinary Sexual Harassment Advisory Panel, members of the Panel are determined through a nomination process.
“[They] must fit certain criteria including a variety of genders, disciplines and races. Successful nominees are appointment by the Director of the Centre for Student Counselling and Development, Chief Director: HR or the Director: Legal Services,” said Brink.
What is the SRC?
According to the SU website the SRC is the highest representative structure for students at SU as recognised by the SU Statute and governed by the Stellenbosch Student Constitution. The SRC fulfils its representative and organisational mandate through various portfolios allocated to a team of elected SRC members (15 with voting rights) and appointed SRC managers.
What is the Equality Unit?
The SU website states that the Equality Unit promotes collective action towards social justice and discourse regarding social asymmetries at SU. The Equality Unit coordinates, educates and raises awareness around sexualities, gender, HIV/Aids, and anti-discrimination.