Complaint lodged at HRC on wrongfully accused ‘blackface’ students

Students wrongfully accused of 'blackface'
Students wrongfully accused of 'blackface'

The FF Plus on Monday said it wanted the Human Rights Commission to probe how Stellenbosch University treated two students who were wrongfully accused of being involved in a “blackface” incident.

The party has laid a complaint with the HRC, said MP Anton Alberts.

The complaint is centred around the institutions alleged breaching of the students’ dignity in terms of Section 10 of the Bill of Rights, as well as the infringing on their right to freedom of expression in terms of Section 16 of the Bill of Rights.

“According to reports in Rapport [February 14 2016], the students were summarily, temporary suspended from their residences, they were not given the opportunity to give their side of the case, they were apparently initially denied access to legal representation and they were subjected to a humiliating disciplinary proceeding,” said Alberts.

He said the the two students were unnecessarily subjected to trauma which would make a lasting impression on them.

The students caused controversy on social media after posting a picture of themselves in what appeared at the time to be dark paint, possibly brown or black, and were subsequently accused of donning “blackfaces”.

One of the students took to social media to apologise for any offence the picture had caused, but emphasised that the pair had been dressed up as purple aliens for a space-themed residence party.

During investigations into the incident, the university had placed the two on suspension. The suspension was lifted on Friday.

The university said the decision was taken on the recommendation of the Equality Unit, following an extensive investigation into the incident.

University management said it accepted the unit’s recommendation on Thursday afternoon and instructed that the students should be invited to return to the residence concerned. The one student was also reinstated in her role as a mentor.

Vice Chancellor Wim de Villiers said at the time that it was clear the students did not have the intention, direct or indirect, of causing offence or harm to any student or staff member.

“There was a perception, enhanced by the impact of social media, that this was a blackface incident. This is, however, not the case.

“Management regrets the trauma that the two students, the house committee, the residence head and the residents of Heemstede experienced,” he said.

De Villiers said, even though he was satisfied that the correct procedures were followed, he realised that this had been a difficult time for the two students in question.

“The university will continue to support them as they are reintegrated into their residence.”

Source – News24

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