“Wow, this is cold!”, “Your buildings are so old”, “You mean anyone can get to question candidates for University President?” These are just some of the comments made by a delegation of student leaders from the University of the Free State who are currently visiting UVM for two weeks (ending Jan 27). They are part of a unique and successful program to promote change on how their University goes about its business.
The University of the Free State is a "traditional" semi-rural Afrikaans-language University which is undergoing rapid transformation with Black students now forming the majority. In such a situation conflict is inevitable and the University suffered a particularly nasty and embarrassing racial incident which resulted in large scale structural changes, many of them still in process. The new Rector has decided that a priority is reconciliation and one way to promote this is to send sophomore level student delegations to overseas Universities to dialogue on how to deal with issues of race and gender and how they work—teaching, how problems are resolved etc. Not only is it a learning experience it is also a bonding experience for them. UVM is part of a number of prominent Universities hosting such students. Other hosts include Cornell, NYU, Holy Cross, Minnesota and Appalachian State. As a host UVM
gets to send a delegation of students and faculty/staff to a two week conference in the Free State in July to discuss how issues of race and gender are dealt with on campuses internationally.
This visit is made possible by the helpful financial and logistical assistance from Residential Life, the Living and Learning Center, Student Life, The Diversity Office, Global Studies, African Studies and the Anthropology Department as well as countless individuals who have hosted these students and their mentor to meals, lectures and excursions for whom much gratitude is due.
"Ay wad th' giftie gie us, tae see ourselves as others see us" wrote Robert Burns. He was right. These Free State Students are giving us a gift...
Trying out the UVM hockey rink...
South African students with Prof. John Sama after skating