Executive statement on the Decolonial Winter School

26 June 2018 | From the VC’s Desk

Dear colleagues and students

Last week the organisers of the Decolonial Winter School circulated a programme which indicated that a planned series of dinners would be restricted to “people of colour”.

First, I want to state unequivocally that the Decolonial Winter School is open to every student and every member of staff at UCT. In supporting the Decolonial Winter School, the executive made it clear to the organisers of the event that if the event was going to have the official approval of UCT, then it had to comply with UCT rules, based in turn on a set of fundamental values, one of which is the commitment to non-racialism. We therefore do not, and will not, exclude anyone from an official event on the basis of race.

Moreover, in our view, the cause of decoloniality itself is well served by a diversity of opinions and views – along with a commitment to foregrounding the experiences of those who have felt excluded and marginalised. The discussion ought not to be the exclusive domain of a specific group of people.

As the programme was finalised, the reference to the dinner including only “people of colour” (abbreviated in the programme as POC) was not picked up by those signing off on the document. Those who signed off have since apologised for the oversight, and have distanced themselves from the wording or the intent to exclude certain people.

When the issue was raised at executive level after the programme became public, the executive immediately contacted the organisers to inform them that their actions were not aligned with UCT values. We insisted that the exclusionary wording be removed and that the event be fully open to everyone. We publicly condemned the action and were given assurances by the organisers that the wording would be removed and that all events would be open to all.

The organisers did remove the wording and the event is now open to all. While this was done, it is regrettable that some of the organisers added their own inappropriate comments, such as “it is time that whites get used to being excluded.” The executive condemns this kind of remark. It is divisive and goes against the drive for inclusivity that we are working so hard to achieve. It is not shared by the large majority of students and staff at UCT, and it is not the kind of campus or society that we wish to have.

I have been asked why we have not cancelled the programme. The reason is that UCT remains a tolerant and open institution, encouraging debate on key issues of the day. Undoubtedly, there is an important discussion to be had under the rubric of decoloniality, and we are hopeful that the winter school will contribute positively to that end.

I invite all staff and students to attend and to participate in the Decolonial Winter School.

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