Is UCT racist?

24 April 2012 | Story by Newsroom

students attending Dr Max Price
Head on: Views differed sharply at the forum, where students spoke openly about their experiences. Taking note: There was plenty for the vice-chancellor, Dr Max Price, to think about.

There was passionate argument, mirth and even some tears at the 3rd Annual Open Forum, held on the evening of 18 April, as UCT students and staff debated whether UCT is racist or not.

Organised by student group Conscious Conversations, in conjunction with the Students' Representative Council, the Transformation Services Office and facilitated by the Process Work Institute, the debate followed on from the prominent Twitter debate titled #CapeTownIsRacist, for the purposes of the forum zeroing in on UCT.

Billed as a forum for students and staff to express even the most contentious of opinions without fear of victimisation (or being 'named and shamed'), it saw a host of experiences and views come to light.

Some argued that the race question is irrelevant in a democratic South Africa. Others countered by relating experiences of racial discrimination at UCT, arguing that the legacy of colonialism and apartheid still had tangible effects on society (including UCT). One respondent described racist attitudes held by a student friend, and concluded: "Is UCT racist? Institutionally, it's debatable. On a peer level, it exists."

Experiencing incidents of racism at an institution did not necessarily deem the institution itself racist, argued one. On the other hand, some students related examples where, they said, they felt the brunt of racism by official functions and representatives of the institution.

The debate continues.

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