Despite calls for a perimeter wall to go up around Rhodes University for the safety of students‚ its vice-chancellor is adamant that this should not happen.
Dr Sizwe Mabizela was speaking at a hearing into gender transformation by the Commission for Gender Equality (CGE)‚ probing “sex-for-marks” and other gender-based abuse at institutions of higher learning.
The commission raised concerns of security on the Grahamstown campus in light of complaints by students that it is not safe. It asked Mabizela if the construction of a perimeter wall had been considered.
Mabizela said that he believed security measures on campus to be adequate and that keeping access to Rhodes open for the Grahamstown community is important.
“Rhodes will not build a security wall. We will not do that because we have no desire to keep out the greater Grahamstown community. We are part of that community. We are one of very few campuses in this country that do not have a perimeter fence. Anyone and everyone can come to Rhodes University.
“I have made it very clear that young people at school should be able to come and use our library. They can come on weekends if they want to use the laboratory.
“It will be a deeply regressive step if we were to construct a wall that would separate Rhodes University from the Grahamstown community.”
Mabizela said Rhodes was uniquely placed to transform the Grahamstown community and that already more young people from the townships were attending the university than before.
He added that many rapes and cases of sexual assault take place in intimate spaces and not on the streets. Building a security wall was therefore not the answer but rather tackling the exploitative mindsets and behaviour that drive people to commit such crimes.
Rhodes is being investigated by the CGE after protests around rape culture at the university erupted earlier this year‚ sparked by the circulation of a “Reference List” on social media‚ naming alleged rapists on campus.