BY BRYNLEY VAN AARDT
Stellenbosch University (SU) students received an unexpected email from Prof Arnold Schoonwinkel, SU Vice-Rector, on Monday: Learning and Teaching, informing them that Huis Marais is going to make place for a new co-ed residence in 2021. This, however, also came as a shock for the residents of Huis Marais who were informed that they were losing their home on the same day that the rest of campus was sent the email.
“SSG [Centre for Student Communities] asked the leadership to give feedback on the progress we’ve made on our Ethos which we sent in on 5 May and [on Monday] they informed us of this news,” Stander Terblanche, outgoing prim of Huis Marais, said.
“The Rectorate last week accepted the recommendation in this regard. The background to the decision however has some time in the making. The leadership has not been part of the decision in the sense of agreeing to the outcome, but they are very much aware of the issues that led to the decision and have been invited to participate in conversation to resolve the issues since 2019,” Martin Viljoen, SU Media Manager said.
Last year Huis Marais was told that they would not be receiving first years in 2020 due to the behaviour of its residents as well as the ethos of the house, further they were told to fix those internal problems to receive first years in 2021. The extra space that was then available was used to house Huis ten Bosch residents until the end of 2020 while their residence was undergoing repairs from fire damage from earlier in 2019.
The email sent out to students stated, “Like in 2020 no new-comers will be allocated to Huis Marais in 2021 as the residence has not demonstrated a concerted effort to grow into a wholesome community that reflects the values of SU.”
“We are saddened that a group of influential leaders in Huis Marais has not used the past 11 months to transform the residence ethos to one that is based on the equal treatment of different population groups, respect for women and promotion of responsible use of alcohol.”
Terblanche believes that they made a lot of effort in order to change but according to SU management, the feedback received “did not demonstrate a concerted effort to effect a change in ethos,” Viljoen reiterated.
With Huis ten Bosch residents returning to their building in 2021, the section of Huis Marais that they used will now be used for the seniors of Huis Marais in 2021 unless they apply to be part of the new co-ed residence or another residence of their choice.
The main Huis Marais building will then become home to the co-ed community made up of 90 female students and 68 male students with seniors from various SU campus communities being invited to make up a senior team who will then welcome about 100 first years in 2021. According to the email, the hope of SU Management is that an environment in which different genders live together will allow for better diversity. SU Managemnt also believes that, “men and women have a better chance of interacting in a healthy way when in a space shared by all,” Viljoen said.
Schoonwinkel added that due to the previous successes of co-ed residences on Tygerberg Campus seen with Nkosi-Johnson House and Ubuntu House as well as Huis Russel Botman and Capri PSO on the Stellenbosch campus, “We are excited by this opportunity to create a new residence that embraces the full diversity of the student body, enabling us to strive for excellence through diversity.