After an EAP student was raped at the University of Kwazulu-Natal’s Howard College in Durban, South Africa, international and African students, with assistance from Howard College educators, moved to put pressure on the administration to change its security policies.
On Monday, Nov. 19, a campus lecture hall became the setting of a meeting between all concerned parties and Deputy Dean of Students Bheki Ngcobo. Petitions containing various security concerns, one of which was a collaboration between UC and African students, were handed to Ngcobo. The audience became agitated when Ngcobo was unable to address any of the concerns, which, according to several students and faculty, had been raised many times before.
It was suggested that a new meeting be scheduled for Wednesday, Nov. 21, and that other administration officials with greater ability to answer security concerns be present to address the issues brought up in the petitions. Ngcobo agreed to reschedule the meeting, but when he refused to place a call to the vice chancellor to request his presence at the future meeting, outrage escalated into chaos. As he tried to leave the room and go back to his office, he was swarmed by students and faculty until calls were placed to higher administration to make them aware of the situation.
On Wednesday, a packed lecture hall heard from three speakers, Deputy Vice Chancellor Professor Hilton Staniland, Executive Dean Trevor Wills and Peter Korte, who is heading a Risk Management Services (RMS) investigation.
Staniland announced that the investigation began on Nov. 15 and is expected to conclude on Dec. 12, with results being made available to the public.
Wills acknowledged that the university has so far ‘failed to provide the correct level of support and protection for students.’ He said that the necessary changes included more adequate locations for RMS guards, a central office accessible 24 hours a day and the installation of emergency intercoms. He also addressed the problem of RMS guardssleeping and lounging on duty, saying that this ‘cannot be supported or condoned’ and that immediate action should be taken when it is reported.
Korte summarized what his investigation has found so far: he said that electronic security systems, which the administration had hoped would solve the security problems, were inadequate for many reasons, most having to do with a small number of students compromising gate security by causing gates and locks to constantly remain open. ‘Electronic access on its own is no longer a viable tool