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Statement from Rhodes University Task Team


The Rhodes University task team, created to deal with issues on sexual violence on campus, has released a statement regarding their work and their autonomy:


Dear All,

The members of what is currently known as the “task team to address issues of sexual violence” write this statement to uphold the values on which it is founded: transparency and active participation. This is to ensure that honest channels of communication remain open between those who are genuinely trying to engage with rape culture on our campus and in our community, and to invite more members of our community to engage in the process of working to further the mandate set out by concerned students and staff in the original terms of reference handed over to this team during the protest.

Importantly, we intend this as a firm declaration of autonomy—we assert our independence from the formal structures of the university, who are in no way responsible either for our formation or for our work, and to explain on our own terms, and in our own words, who we are. This team emerged from the student responses to issues of sexual violence at this university. It was from that response that the university structures initiated the process of establishing this team. This team acknowledges that it is rooted in the space that it emerged from: it is rooted in the student movement. But, being initiated by the university structures, it makes recommendations on how the university itself can better serve the entire university and wider community to eliminate sexual violence, rape culture and the patriarchal systems affecting the lives of us all. It is not a part of any university structure, but rather is an autonomous body that works within the entire university community. As such it cannot be spoken for by any other body – within the university or otherwise.

A group of students and staff from this university has volunteered to participate in one (or more) of six sub-committees, each meeting weekly and working towards one of the six terms of reference. These include: (1) Safe spaces for survivors/victims, (2) policies and procedures, (3) curriculum and activities, (4) systemic issues, (5) local and national issues and (6) monitoring and evaluation. Each sub-committee has selected one student and one staff member from their committee to represent them on a steering committee, which meets once every two weeks. This meeting allows sub-committees to work together. Some of the mandates of sub-committees will take time to implement, others must be done now. All must be addressed with a sense of urgency. The long-term goals of this team must not be taken to mean a lack of urgency. Many of the tasks we have been given can and must be done now! To fail to act with extreme urgency will mean perpetuating injustice. We cannot allow that to happen and ask for your help in preventing further injustices to occur within our university community.

All of the sub-committees and the steering committee must report to the entire university community, not any one group or structure within it. In our first steering committee meeting, the decision was made to adopt a policy of radical transparency rather than reporting to any one constituency within the university. All minutes and workings of the steering committee meetings and sub-committee meetings will be made publicly available online (in their entirety) and will accurately and without omission reflect all events and discussions that transpired.

Each sub-committee has already met a few times and has begun to work on the six areas listed above. We have created a Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/groups/171554399914226/) where we will upload minutes from all meetings of the sub-committees and steering committee. Please follow what is happening there and give us your input. We will only be able to put forward the best possible recommendations if we have the opportunity to hear as many voices as possible. Please therefore consider volunteering for one of the sub-committees. We really need more representatives from different groups on campus, in particular we would like to invite more representatives from the student body, from NEHAWU, and from staff across faculties (the Humanities Faculty is the only faculty which is strongly represented at present). If you don’t feel like you have the time to commit to meeting weekly please do provide us with your suggestions and recommendations on the Facebook group, comment on minutes, or email a co-ordinator of a team directly.

Right now, what we urgently need from you is a new name. Our group does not want to be known as the “task team” because we feel that this name has been tainted. Just as the group was formed by you, so too we believe it should be named by you – the university community! Send us suggestions! The most direct line of communication with the working members of these groups is through the Facebook page or through emailing Kaitlin Yendall, of the CSSR, who is administrating the process (taskteam2016@gmail.com).

Finally, as a collective, we want to assert that we are not led by any one member of the group. The interim committee (consisting of Brahmi Padayachi, Diana Hornby, Catriona Macleod, Lelona Mxesibe, Thabani Masuku, Naledi Mashishi) set up to facilitate the process of establishing the terms of reference for the task team has now dissolved. The steering committee shares the responsibility of communicating the work of each sub-committee faithfully and transparently to the greater university community, and each sub-committee commits itself to representing your needs and best interests in the fight against rape culture.

Best regards

The Steering Committee

Composition of the steering committee as it currently stands (listed according to the 6 sub-committees):

  1. Jordan King – student, Lindsay Kelland – staff
  2. Manthipe Moila- student, Susan Robertson – staff
  3. Chelsea Haith – student, Sam Naidu – staff
  4. Jabulile Mavuso – student, Natalie Donaldson – staff
  5. Craig Paterson – student, Philip Machanick – staff
  6. Zintle Mvana – student, Still need a staff member – staff

Administrative, logistical and informational support will be provided through the CSSR by Kaitlin Yendall, Yanela Ndabula, Katlego Molokoe and Catriona Macleod.

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