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RUReference List FAQ: Where to start.

Adam Butler and Chloé  Osmond

Recently, two students at the University Currently Known as Rhodes (UCKAR) were excluded from the university for life for what is being called “conduct beyond lawful boundaries”. It has been a year and a half since the events in question took place. Students who started attending UCKAR in 2017 were not present during the 2016 #RUReferenceList . Many students have forgotten the details of what happened, or have been lost in these few months of intense court proceedings and media coverage. We’ve compiled a list of Frequently Asked Questions which have been appearing in public discourse, along with some resources which should equip you with all the information you need.

  • How did RUReferenceList start?

On 17 April 2016, a list of names, which was quickly determined to be a list of suspected rapists on campus, was anonymously posted on a Facebook Page. In response, students assembled and decided to move as a group to the residences of those on the list, to demand that they come out and respond to the allegations. After moving from upper campus, the group moved down to the Purple Square, the area outside the Drama Department, along with several of the accused, who walked with the crowd. Here, students who had stepped forward as leadership – largely the SRC Activism and iNkoli Fassi members – began to work with the crowd to draft a memorandum of demands to present to University Management in the morning.

As the night wore on, many of the accused left the Purple Square, but one remained with the group until the morning. In the early hours of the morning, the police, along with Vice Chancellor Dr. Sizwe Mabizela, arrived to ask the small group of still-assembled students to release the man. The students refused to do so unless the police agreed to take the accused into custody. The police asserted that they could not arrest the accused unless a victim was willing to make a statement, at which point both the accused and the victim were escorted away. A full account of the events of this first evening can be found here. Video account here:

The protests continued throughout the month of April. More info here, and day-by-day video coverage here

  • Who has been excluded, and why?

Two students, Yolanda Dyantyi and Dominique McFall, have been excluded for life following a lengthy internal disciplinary procedure. On 20 April 2016, several students were named in an interdict (more information can be found here). The accused who was held on the 17th opened a case with the university, mentioning McFall and Dyantyi by name, which is why they have seen the harshest consequences out of all the protest’s participants and leaders.

  • What procedures were followed leading up to their exclusion?

The two students were subject to internal hearings held by UCKAR management. The students were excluded by this internal committee on the basis that they partook in actions which were criminal offences and went against the student disciplinary code as well as the law. Read the following document to get a better sense of the proceedings which took place: 
https://www.scribd.com/document/366999918/SERI-Rhodes-Media#from_embed

  • What were/are the students’ demands?

The full list of demands drafted on 17 April can be found here. Later, the demands were ammended – the altered demands can be found here. The Vice Chancellor’s response can be found here.

  • What motivation would the university have to treat protesting students unfairly?

The #RUReferenceList protest caused massive upheaval for half a month and the academic program including lectures, tutorials and practicals were disrupted by the protesting students who demanded to be heard. University management would have been experiencing pressure from all sides, including some of the student body, parents, and the financial sector, to find an end to the protest action not only in the short term but also for the future.

Many of the leaders of the Reference List protest saw consequences for their actions. Some were excluded, but many other students who participated in the RUReferenceList protest were simply scared off from protesting any further and some of the students simply deregistered from the university. The implications of this were apparent later in 2016 during #FeesMustFall, which was far smaller and more chaotic as a movement in comparison to RUReferenceList due to the lack of leadership and the smaller number of students willing to risk their entire education, future, and indeed, life, for the cause of the movement.

The student protests of 2015 and 2016 were often referred to as a “leaderless movement”. Every action that was taken, was taken by a large crowd of people. Thus, it is probable that the excluded students were merely scapegoats – the bravest voices, and therefore, the most convenient targets – that the University used as a warning to the student body: “Do not mess with the institution. We hold the power, and we will not hesitate to punish you using maximum force”.

  • What has the institution done since then?

Besides prosecuting various students since the end of the protests for actions which went against the Student Disciplinary Code, the university created a Task Team comprised of staff and students to address the issues of rape culture on this campus.

The final Task Team terms can be found here:

https://www.ru.ac.za/media/rhodesuniversity/content/studentzone/documents/FINAL%20TASK%20TEAM%20TERMS%20OF%20REFERENCE%20SEXUAL%20VIOLENCE.pdf

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