Orientation or indoctrination?


By Megan Meyer

“Welcome to University! This is where you will spend the next few years of your life. That’s where you’ll make mistakes, where you’ll hang out and learn… and where we’ll force our left-wing political ideas on you! But don’t worry, we’re going to slip it quietly into freshman orientation and emblazon it with the words ‘acceptance’ and ‘diversity’.”

What should freshman orientation really be about? Isn’t this supposed to be an introduction – here’s how your classes, tests and the library work, here’s all the clubs and societies we have that you can volunteer to join, and a big welcome!

Nowadays, as we see at the North-West University (NWU), issues such as others’ sexual preferences, or LGBTQIA+, are discussed at orientation with young people just out of high school. Do such conversations belong in a first year’s orientation? The answer to the question may differ between people. I suggest that the first years be given a choice whether they want to listen to the conversation, without fining them or threatening them with disciplinary action if they do not attend such a session.

The North-West University is well known with the Human Rights Commission and all the rules and regulations they recommend. After all, they know the right of association and of expression, so why can’t the senior suspended student also have his say? Are other people not then allowed to openly disagree with regard to the issues being discussed? We are a country known for our toyi-toyi, our spirit, our loud voices and positions and our disruption of classes and freedom at universities!

A suspension for someone exercising their rights sounds ridiculous to me.

Clearly, the disruption of a student’s studies, who decided to use his right to freedom of expression, is not wrong for the university authorities. Is granting a basic human right too much to ask? Does the law only apply if it fits the views of the NWU? Is there only one choice – or seven letters – for freshmen there?

If you don’t give them a decent choice, let all institutions and ideologies flow in! Invite the whole alphabet to come and talk: Communism and socialism are ideas they will be willing to listen to. People who identify as a cat or a dog must say they can say or how? After all, this is what is accepted in the Western world. A barking and meowing of ideas should also be welcome. After all, the university is diverse and inclusive!

The NWU states that the senior student who stood up and spoke against the LGBTIQA+ session during their first-year orientation violated the rights of other students, and caused students to leave the hall. The students most likely left the hall, because they also do not want to listen to issues that they simply do not agree with.

I am not at all saying that the students who want to listen to the sessions on LGBTIQA+ should not do so, or should be belittled. Not at all! Every student has the right to believe what they want. I do say that the university does not have the right to force students to be oriented with inappropriate subjects. Are the LQBTIQA+’s rights or community more important than mine or yours, or those of the students who don’t want to listen to the session?

We as South African citizens differ. We are diverse with many ideologies, communities, religions and languages. If the NWU wants to market itself as diverse and inclusive, it needs to be open to hearing all students’ views and giving them the opportunity to decide whether they want to attend a certain session or not.

My question is to every reader; are students going to stand up for their rights or are freshmen going to be greeted like this from now on at the NWU’s orientation:

“Welcome to the NWU+. Here we accept everyone and all opinions, unless you disagree with us. We are now going to start the orientation, our first issue is the diversity alphabet. Just remember your freedom of speech is not welcome here. Enjoy your next few years with us!”

  • Megan Meyer is an intern at Solidarity Young Workers.

#JongStemme is a project by RNews and Solidarity Youth that wants to emphasize the youth’s voice in the public domain. Visit Solidarity Youth’s website at www.jeug.co.za for help and advice with your career.

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