The societies also issued a memorandum to UP’s Registrar on 18 April. This coincided with a silent march facilitated by UP & Out and PUPSS. UP & Out and PUPSS consider the memorandum a necessary step following an incident that breached the university’s sexual harassment code of conduct and was reported to the societies. The victim did not take any formal steps as she did not know where to report such a case. UP & Out chairperson Nicholas Lawrence, along with members of PUPSS and TSPA, met with UP Principal and Vice-Chancellor Prof. Cheryl de la Rey on 25 April and engaged in a discussion that acted as a “holistic response from management to the students”.
UP management executive responded to the societies’ demand for “wider accessibility to policies on sexual harassment, discrimination and hate speech based on sexual orientation/ gender representation [that is] on the same level as a plagiarism policy”, by requesting that the Department of University Relations address the efficiency of the search function of the UP website and create a link or place a banner on the UP website’s main page to make it easier to locate UP policies.
The memorandum also demanded a “protected university environment where victims feel enabled to report cases and are not victimised further by the disciplinary process”. In response to this, the university said that it “will endeavour to improve and expand the current support services that are provided” and has Prof. Carolina Koornhof, executive director of finance and business initiatives and student administration, and Dr Matete Madiba, Director of Student Affairs, attending to this specific demand.
Other demands listed in the memorandum include a zero tolerance policy for cases of sexual crimes, discrimination and hate speech based on sexual orientation or gender representation, a functional reporting mechanism for cases involving sexual crimes, discrimination and hate speech based on sexual orientation or gender representation, and detailed incident forms available for the reporting of cases involving sexual crimes, discrimination and hate speech based on sexual orientation or gender representation.
The office of the Registrar went on to mention how the university will launch a new awareness campaign to address the main problem that relates to cases of sexual crime, discrimination and hate speech by means of posters that will be distributed and displayed university-wide. The campaign will be promoted on social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter. A dedicated helpline that will be available 24/7 and provide immediate support to complaints is also being investigated. Management further said that it “undertakes to provide feedback on measures that are still in [the] process [of being investigated], as and when substantial progress has been made in this regard”.
However, despite UP management’s response to their demands, the societies remain unsatisfied. “We did receive feedback [from the Registrar]. We are still communicating with their office, but as it stands, we are not pleased with the outcome from management at this particular moment,” says Lawrence. “As part of the campaign against sexual harassment, we will be working with the legal department of our university in amending it.”
UP’s Protection Officer, Elize Gardiner, said that the amendments are presently with the SRC and that input from the Institutional Forum also needs to be considered