Was The RU Reference List A Really Bad Idea Or Was It Simply Necessary?

Hundreds of half naked Rhodes University students banded together and took to the streets yesterday (not for the last time) in protest after the publication of what is now called the RU Reference list. The RU reference list features the names of alleged perpetrators of rape and sexual assault on the campus and the over 200 students who are protesting have some basic requests which we will show below;

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  • Gordon Barker and Sarah Driver immediately step down as the university proctors. This is because the manner in which they have dealt with victims in the past has been extremely callous and has resulted in a number of victims having secondary trauma.
  • A team must be appointed to deal with cases of abuse and assault. Currently, there is only one Harassment Officer to deal with all cases of abuse and assault and we find this highly problematic as when she is not in students have no one else to report to.
  • Changes must be made to the current sexual policy. These include a change of the definition of rape to include those who are forced to penetrate another as well as to change the policy which currently requires victims to prove that their perpetrators intended to rape them.
  • Mandatory sensitivity training for staff. This includes CPU
  • People charged with sexual assault may not be able to run for and occupy student leadership positions. Past sexual assault charges must be taken into consideration when selecting subwardens as the position is not just employment but a leadership position as well.
  • Buchule Madikizela must step down as the SRC Environmental Councillor
  • In the event of a shut down, the Health Care Center and the Counselling Center must stay open
  • Those charged with rape must be suspended from residence- Rape charges must be placed on students permanent academic records
  • No student who participates in any protest action will face disciplinary action or be otherwise penalized. This includes DP removals for missed tutorials, practicals, lectures, or submissions, tests, or being given fail marks for any of the above.”

All the requests on the students list are easily understood and could even be deemed necessary but a question persists as to whether the University’s initial move of publishing these names is justifiable. It is especially funny that the same university administration that published the list afterwards pleaded with angry students not to take any action on the alleged rapists. Of course, that did nothing to stop the students for searching out the implicated students, two of whom were held in custody by the protesters.

RU reference list protest

There is also the fact that all the students on the list are still alleged rapists, in essence they have not stood trial and been declared guilty but will now have to continue with the stigma. We must also question why after this publication, the university is taking any time at all in granting these basic requests and improving the response of the school to rape and assault reports. By publishing the RU reference list was the administration not showing its willingness to take action, if not, what was the point?

Whatever the answer to that may be, Rhodes University students have taken this battle as their own and will continue in their demands that will help to alleviate rape culture on their campus. You can follow the progress of the battle on social media with the hashtag; #RUReferenceList. Currently, police have clashed with students as protests against alleged rape continue today.

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