Sonop excluded from student life

DITEBOGO TSHAKA

Sonop residence has been prohibited from participating in any student life activities “for the time being”. Sonop is a privately-owned student housing complex, which exclusively houses UP students.

In a letter issued by the Department of Student Affairs to the SRC Sub Committee Chairpersons on 24 January, it was stated that UP Executive Management had decided that Sonop will “not be allowed to participated in upcoming UP student life events as a residence”. These events are the TuksRes Welcoming event that took place on the evening of 27 January, the 1nSync competition that took place on 3 February, the RAG of Hope Day on 10 February, and other sports, cultural and RAG events of 2018.

The letter asked the SRC chairpersons to “ensure that Sonop is removed from the programs, participation and allocations facilitated by each…respective committee”. The residence is not permitted to participate in any event hosted or associated with Student Culture (STUKU), RAG or Student Sport.

The chairpersons were to also ensure that where Sonop was in partnerships with other residences, a new partnership be facilitated for the other residences “to ensure that all the affected role players will not be affected negatively by the changes made in removing Sonop”.

On 4 February, Netwerk24 reported that four out of the 160 Sonop residents are black. A member of the Sonop house committee, Douw Marx explained to the news platform that the residence struggles to enlist students of colour as Sonop is not listed on the University’s webpage as a residence and few students know that it is an option for them.

A black Sonop resident, Kagiso Morerwa, told Netwerk24 that the University’s decision is ridiculous. “Sonop is doing its best to include everybody. The University cannot expect the residence to change overnight,” he said. It is Morerwa’s second year in the residence and he says he was never so loved and appreciated as by Sonop.

According to UP spokesperson, Rikus Delport, there have been challenges with regard to the transformation requirements set by the University for privately-owned student housing establishments in recent years. “The University is sympathetic to the challenges facing Sonop in this regard, particularly given the high cost of operating student housing without any form of subsidisation,” said Delport.

Delport told Perdeby that UP Management has been involved in processes to arrive at a new Memorandum of Understanding between UP and Sonop through ongoing discussions between Sonop’s Board and the University.

He also explained that UP Management must consult with internal stakeholders, including the UP SRC on matters that affect students.

“In the light of the on-going process to address the diversity profile of residences that wish to participate in the student culture activities, Sonop will, for the time being not participate in the up-coming 1nSync and RAG events,” said Delport.

Delport mentioned that the same principle applies to all other providers of private and accredited accommodation.

UP SRC President Kwena Moloto informed Perdeby that the SRC was asked to review Sonop’s transformation plan and advise on whether or not to allow them to participate in upcoming student life events.

“After robust engagement over the course of several hours it was decided that, given Sonop’s history, the SRC would monitor the implementation of Sonop’s transformation plan and review their progress on a yearly basis,” Moloto revealed.

Moloto expressed the SRC’s commitment to “building an inclusive res culture where students from all races, genders, sexual orientations, religions and cultures feel welcome”. “This, however, will never be achieved if we judge transformation based on plans rather than implementation,” he said.

Tonie Viljoen, Sonop’s Head of Residence told Perdeby that the Sonop Board was “in contact [with] and will continue discussions with UP management” and “[would] advise of changes in the status quo”. Delport confirmed that “University Management will continue its engagement with the Board of Sonop to arrive at a Memorandum of Understanding underpinned by shared values and a diversity profile that demonstrates transformation of the residences”.

 

Image: Sonop YouTube page

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