This year, Perdeby is turning 80 (in case you hadn’t noticed), and this presents the perfect opportunity to reflect on our own writing. Residence issues are something that always have and always will be a prominent part of the paper since it affects so many of UP’s students. With the main aspects of today’s reporting on res being gossip (Pssst…) and gender or race imbalances, Perdeby decided to delve into the archives and examine how this has changed, or remained constant, over the years.
The year it all started – Perdeby’s inception. Interestingly, the archives appeared only to have one article relating to res in ’39 and it appears to be concerned with members of Kollege and Laer houses fighting overseas (during the Second World War). This goes to show that politics and res have never been mutually exclusive and likely never can be, as social issues affect students just as much as anyone else.
By this time, Perdeby was in full swing, reporting on many of the same categories of issues that are reported on today, namely politics, sports, entertainment and news. As far as res is concerned, most of the issues reported on were fairly mild, containing topics like “huisdanse” (house dances), Jool, Serenade, Lentedag, sports and the usual res gossip – although in the ‘40s they weren’t afraid to name names. There was also a lot of reporting on the formation of new houses, especially of those for day-students who were viewed as in need of the unification and camaraderie that was presumed to come with res culture. Although these issues may seem unimportant compared to the major, life-changing problems many deal with today, it is important to remember that this was during an age where conservatism was prevalent, even in student writing. For example, weekly Bible verses and discussions around Christianity, which was heavily encouraged, if not enforced by the government at the time – were included.
Not much changed in Perdeby’s reporting on res during this decade. Prominent topics included Jool, huisdanse, debutantes, the formation of new houses, the election of house committees and the usual res “fun and games”, including harmless pranks and activities. Sexist ideals that were prevalent at the time did, however, come through in odd articles, for instance, a 1955 article stating that now that the first year res initiation process was complete, the UP men had “something new to look at”, even going so far as to add concern for the “poor” res ladies who had now become “doodgewoon” (dead-normal) in the eyes of the men.
The issues reported on in previous decades remained consistent during the ‘60s, with the addition of response pages where houses could make accusations to each other and respond. These accusations were of course in jest and included inside jokes surrounding pranks that had been played, or socials that had happened. Res sports news also remained prominent, with a focus on the male res cricket and rugby results.
It was during the late ‘60s and early ‘70s that entire pages began to be dedicated to “huisnuus” (house-news) with a heading for each house, allowing houses to provide students with weekly updates and thoughts about what was happening in res at the time (although these updates were still mainly about everyday life at res, and not anything particularly controversial).
This is when things begin to get interesting. The political climate at the time had become progressively more heated, culminating in the government declaring a state of emergency in 1985 and negotiations between the ANC, PAC and other parties and the National Party government beginning to be considered. Up until 1989, most res articles revolved mainly around the usual topics that had prevailed in previous decades, although the rest of the paper reported widely on the political issues of the time outside of a res context. When the university began to accept black and coloured South Africans as students, Perdeby released an article discussing the problem of the lack of residence allocated to such students, since the existing resses were still segregated. This is roughly the beginning of Perdeby’s inclusion of more negative aspects of res, with other articles involving increased fees and harmful initiation practices being printed. There were calls for a change in tradition to make it more inclusive and to make initiation practices less damaging, showing a slightly more open-minded view that appeared not to try to bury the negative aspects of res underneath fun and games. It still wasn’t perfect, of course, and there was still a weekly “damesblad” (ladies-page) which included things like tips on how to deal with long hair, and advertisements for wedding dress rental companies. There was also an article relating to the fact that there was not enough residence space for ladies now that the university had made the decision not to discriminate based on gender (which also used to work on a quota system) and instead admit men and women alike into courses based only on merit, increasing the number of female students studying at UP. The ‘80s were also the first time race even featured in res related articles.
1990 – 1994
While normal topics like which res to choose and who won the inter-house rugby remained in the paper, race issues become extremely prevalent. This only makes sense considering this was a time of negotiation, emancipation and desegregation. The 1994 Perdeby editions are particularly indicative of this, with a heavy focus on the upcoming elections, and then the aftermath. Res-related articles included more drastic changes in initiation traditions, with Boekenhout members being disciplined for getting themselves hospitalised with alcohol poisoning, the decision to include polling stations inside residences for the elections, and protests from some of the black South African res students relating to racism and intimidation from the HKs (“Huis Kommittees” – House Committees).
1997 – 1999
These years saw many of the same issues reported on as we do nowadays. There were many articles about “orientation” (initiation) which seemed to be an important issue during the ‘90s and early 2000s. Other articles included six Mopanie members being kicked out due to intimidation and gang activity, the res lifts being in bad condition, certain white students changing to a different res after their res began admitting more black and coloured South Africans (although this was said to be because of other reasons), new transformation projects being undertaken by the university and residences, and a lot of emphasis on getting students to know their rights (relating to initiation). Perdeby’s reporting on res issues has changed drastically over the decades, particularly once the late ‘80s took place. Mild mannered pranks were replaced by ruthless initiation and tips on hairstyles by gender discrimination. Gossip, sport and inter-house activites are still included, but as student politics have changed, so has Perdeby’s reporting, in general, towards a more inclusive, accurate direction.
Photo: Elmarie Kruger