Wilgenhof monitored 24 hours; welcome program ‘align’


The Wilgenhof men’s dormitory in Stellenbosch will be monitored 24 hours a day to ensure that the dormitory remains in line with the values ​​and acceptable practices as endorsed by Stellenbosch University (SU).

Prof. Wim de Villiers, rector and vice-chancellor, said in a letter to the university community that the two rooms in which “disturbing articles” were found will now be used for their original use.

“The residence welcome program is fully aligned with our values ​​and acceptable practices of community building and fostering camaraderie. At SU, it is an institutional priority for us to offer a welcome home for everyone here. Given our history, our institution has some challenges in this regard, but over the past few years we have invested in efforts to transform our institution into one where inclusive excellence, human dignity and mutual respect underpin all our relationships and interactions,” writes De Villiers.

It is in this context that the contents recently found by SU staff in two rooms of the Wilgenhof residence are “deeply disturbing”.

News24 reported that graphic images, sketches and written descriptions of “punishment” inflicted in this residence are among the items found behind the closed doors of Wilgenhof residence. Reference was also made to the “horrific abuse” to which some of the residents were subjected.

According to De Villiers, this indicates apparently unacceptable practices that are in conflict with SU’s values. “These items have been removed and secured and a panel has been appointed to fully assess the items. The panel will provide the rectorate with recommendations on the appropriate further handling of this matter. We expect the report by the end of February. We treat this matter with the seriousness it deserves, without prejudging the panel’s findings.”

According to De Villiers, dedicated residence management teams actively work together to ensure a “safe and supportive environment” across all of SU’s residences.

“The safety and well-being of our students is non-negotiable. The university has a zero tolerance policy towards any acts, behavior or structures that contribute to the humiliation of any member of the university community. To this end, the university has begun a process of deep introspection following some deplorable incidents at our institution in the recent past.”

Former judge Edwin Cameron, SU chancellor and former resident of Wilgenhof, said in a statement that there can be no place at SU for any practice or behavior that belittles, demeans or gives undue power over someone else.

“I am disturbed by allegations that degrading practices have taken place at Wilgenhof in the recent past. The widespread dismay at these revelations is fully justified. I am also troubled by suggestions that humiliating disciplinary processes have been imposed. In both cases, to my knowledge, the university has already taken steps to stop it. I strongly agree with SU’s response to the revelations about Wilgenhof’s history and previous disciplinary processes, and I fully support it.”

According to Cameron, he is proud of the fact that the university under De Villiers’ leadership is a “much more diverse, tolerant and inclusive institution than it once was”.

“These remnants of the past must be erased. The rector and vice-chancellor launched an investigation into the meaning of this. I look forward to trying to assist the investigation in any way I can.”