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Thursday, 01 April 2021

Creating an inclusive university

Safe Zone: The Division of Student Affairs organised the #SafeZone #Equalityforall webinar. Safe Zone: The Division of Student Affairs organised the #SafeZone #Equalityforall webinar.

More than 100 participants recently tuned in for the #SafeZone #Equalityforall webinar, which provided a space for discussion on human rights and why we need an inclusive university.

Championed by the HIV/AIDS Unit, the speakers for the online event were: Nonkosi Tyolwana, Director of Transformation, Social Cohesion & Diversity Unit, Dr Nyx McLean, lecturer in the Department of Information Technology and Gender Equality and Inclusivity Working Group member as well as Naythan Kayser: Coordinator: The Office of Leadership and Social Responsibility at UWC and a gender and inclusivity activist. The Central SRC pledged its support for the webinar.

 “Each and every student entering CPUT must feel a sense of belonging and experience our institution as a safe zone,” said Melanie Marais, Head of the HIV/AIDS Unit.

The main messages were:

  • Inclusivity means providing equal access to opportunities and resources for people who might otherwise be marginalised or excluded based on their disability, sexual orientation, mental health, HIV status or gender-based violence.
  • Why is an inclusive university necessary? Because it is quite simple - it is the right thing to do.
  • These conversations need to be part of teaching and learning in curricula and not separate. It is important that student leadership form part of such conversations and inclusivity should be represented on various committees. Engagement with NGOs is also necessary as various stakeholders need to work together to create a transformed community.
  • Make no assumptions, use the correct pronouns and, if you do not understand, engage and ask so that you can learn. Often we may have to unlearn. Pronouns are part of the lived experience and respect required for all people. We need open minds as we move forward and create an inclusive environment.
  • In order to establish a Safe Zone programme or society at the institution, we need students to become actively involved for it to succeed.

 “An inclusive university is an ethical university. It recognises that exclusion on the basis of identity and lived experience is an act of harm, and so it works to include everyone in its conception of community,” said McLean.

The webinar, which was organised by the Division of Student Affairs (DSA), was attended by academics and class representatives, representatives from political structures, peer educators; HIV/Aids Unit, DSA Student Development officers and Student Counselling.

 “CPUT is truly a beacon for us all in the higher education sector in regards to becoming more equitable and inclusive! The comments from this webinar should be noted for the policy finalisation,” said Kayser.

Written by Ilse Fredericks