THE INCIDENT in which a number of Metanoia resident's doors were anointed with oil crosses remains unresolved. Photo: Sebastiaan Whitward

Metanoia Anointing Incident Still Unresolved

By Ansela Sloman

Following an incident where a number of students’ doors were anointed with oil crosses in Metanoia Residence last year, many victims still feel that no action has been taken by Stellenbosch University (SU) following the incident, according to Colenso Holder, a final-year BCom (International Business) student.

Holder, who was one of the victims of the incident, said that although the Student Disciplinary Office updated some of the victims at the beginning of the year, it seems that “the case has thus far gone cold”.

“We [those affected by the incident] were told by the Equality Unit that there might be a hearing, but nothing of the sort has happened,” stated Holder.

In October last year, a number of students residing in Metanoia found that oil crosses had been marked on their doors and rooms without their knowledge or permission. This was confirmed by a communication released on section WhatsApp group chats by the HK to the residence on 22 November of last year, urging students to report crosses to the Equality Unit.

“It brings us great disappointment that the infringement of religious rights has continued in res since the first incident on the 3rd of October. . . . We urge whoever is entering people’s rooms and anointing them without consent to stop. Simultaneously, we also urge all those who find crosses to report it to the Equality Unit . . . ,” read the communication.

The crosses were alleged to be part of a religious “anointing” by other students residing in Metanoia. The crosses seemingly targeted members of minority religious groups and members of the LGBTQIA+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer or questioning, intersex, asexual, or otherwise queer) community, according to Charis Bedderson, a second-year BEng (Mechanical) student residing in Metanoia.

“Everyone was kind of too afraid to say so because it’s so difficult to prove . . . and because other people were eventually targeted when there was a second round . . ., but I knew many queer people within res whose doors were targeted and not the people around them. I personally would say it was targeted [at LGBTQIA+ people and people of different religions] . . . ,” Bedderson said.

According to the statements released by the Metanoia HK and SU Media Manager Martin Viljoen, the incident was referred to the Equality Unit for investigation. Viljoen stated that the Equality Unit’s investigation has been completed and that the matter has been referred to the Head of Student Discipline and Chair of the Central Disciplinary Committee (CDC).

“This matter is not finalised yet. . . . Disciplinary proceedings are ongoing. The Equality Unit is governed by the Unfair Discrimination and Harassment Policy and cannot divulge the identities of the complainant or respondent while the matter is still ongoing and with the Office of Student Discipline,” Viljoen explained.

However, some victims, such as Holder, feel left in the dark due to a lack of communication and unsatisfied at the amount of time that has passed since the incident.

Holder said that he moved out of Metanoia during the semester in which these events took place, and he added that some of the other victims did the same the following semester. He expressed dissatisfaction with the course of action so far, explaining that the victims have been asked to resubmit multiple written statements despite having already done so.

“The case was referred to the Centre of Student Discipline by the Equality Unit. The Centre of Student Discipline again demanded that all the victims give written statements, which was probably the third or fourth time the university subjugated the victims to making statements they have already submitted,” Holder explained.

Another victim, who is still living in Metanoia and who asked to remain anonymous, said she has not received any update about the progress of the investigation.

“We haven’t actually gotten any communication back, and when I was on the call with [the Equality Unit] they told me they’d let us know every step of the way, but they did not,” she said. 

“It was not a good time in res . . . not feeling safe in the environment that is meant to be home.”

Bedderson concurs that the communication from the Equality Unit has been unsatisfactory, leaving the HK to advise residents to lock their doors whilst the investigation was ongoing.

“It’s scary that that’s what our House Committee had to offer us — lock your doors. Instead of ‘here is the outcome of the investigation’,” she said. 

“Friends of mine who were affected heard nothing back [from the Equality Unit], and people who I personally know were involved in the [perpetrating of] the attacks are still in res.” 

Dave Binza, Metanoia’s prim, emphasised that the Equality Unit has to follow due process, but acknowledged that residents are frustrated with the amount of time that the investigation is taking and that Metanoia leadership is yet to receive any recommendations from the Equality Unit.

“[The] Equality Unit investigated the situation as much as possible to ensure a thorough account of everything. Currently, no recommendations have come back yet regarding the situation,” said Binza. 

“The main issue that most residents have is the speed at which this case is being dealt with. The Equality Unit has to follow due process to ensure a fair account of the situation, which is why it may still not have a finalised recommendation.” 

Binza added that Metanoia leadership tried their best to support the victims of the incident by offering counselling and allowing a victim to move to a different room. 

“Wellness [and] trauma counselling was offered to the students, and they [were] advised to contact the Equality Unit for their case to [be] assessed and dealt with [by] the appropriate intervener. We [Metanoia’s HK] also released a statement condemning these acts and encouraging respect of our fellow residents,” he said. 

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