Salient. An Organ of Student Opinion at Victoria College, Wellington, N.Z. Vol. 18, No. 10. July 15, 1954
South Africa . . . — Statement on Threat of Academic "Apartheid"
South Africa . . .
Statement on Threat of Academic "Apartheid"
A Commission of Enquiry has recently been set up "to investigate and report on the practicability and financial implications of providing separate training facilities for non-Europeans at Universities."
We, the undersigned, wish to express our alarm at the exclusion from these terms of reference of what must surely be regarded as the fundamental underlying questions. These questions are: Can it be shown that "special training facilities" are in fact necessary, more especially at those universities which traditionally do not practice academic segregation? Is there any need to interfere with the existing rights and freedoms of such universities? And, finally, is there any advantage to be gained, either educationally or in the field of race relations, through imposing academic "apartheid" in all South African universities?
Four different systems operate in South Africa at present. First, there is the University of Potchefstroom, whose Charter permits it to admit European students only. Secondly, the Universities of Stellenbosch. Pretoria and the Orange Free State, though not restricted by their Charters, in practice, do not admit nonEuropeans. Rhodes is in like position, but does admit non-Europcan post-graduate students. The University College of Fort Hare, affiliated to Rhodes gives preference to nonEuropean students. Thirdly, there is the University of Natal, which conducts separate classes for Europeans and non-Europeans. Fourthly, there are the open universities of the Witwatersrand and Cape Town, which, with certain exceptions due to practical considerations, admit non-Europeans on the same criteria as Europeans.
The practice followed by the open universities has not given rise to friction or internal tension. On the contrary, successive generations of students have enthusiastically affirmed the wisdom and correctness of opening the University to non-European students, while similar resolutions have been passed by the University Council and staff. It is significant that the students of Rhodes and the Convocation of Natal voted by overwhelming majorities against academic segregation.
In a country like South Africa, where race attitudes and prejudices vary so greatly, it is understandable that the tradition and practice of different Universities should reflect those variations. This is in fact, the present position. Students are therefore able, within certain geographical limits, to make their own choice of the type of university environment which they prefer. The Prime Minister, however, considers the mixing of races in certain universities, "a crying anomaly," and the unmistakable implication of the Government's proposed action is that it intends without the assistance of the Commission, to deny students the right to exercise their own choice and to interfere with the traditional right of universities to order their own affairs within the limits of their own Charter in order to impose an artificial and stultifying uniformity.
It is because the true aims of a university can only be promoted in a free intellectual environment that the inviolability of this freedom is of such paramount importance. The functions of a university are not only to impart method and fact and to prepare students for a profession, but to create a body of men and women who share a sense of civilised values. It must encourage the fearless pursuit of truth and knowledge and teach students to think for themselves. To fulfill these aims it must be free to attract the most able students from every racial group, to welcome independence of outlook and to promote the fruitful interaction of mind upon mind. We consider that, within South Africa, the open universities of the Witwatersrand and of Cape Town approach nearest to this conception of a University. We record our deep conviction that it would be a tragedy for the future of this country if the Government, compelled these now open universities to depart from their established practice.
One of the chief justifications advanced for abolishing the open system is that it tends to social mixing. Precisely what is meant by "social mixing" is not quite clear. The present position at the open universities is that all students attend the same classes (except in the clinical training of medical students), use the same facilities and can participate in student government and student cultural activities. Non-Europeans do not take part with Europeans in dances and sports activities. What the opponents of the opposing system have in mind is that it leads to miscegenation. We believe that this fear is mistaken. Experience both in South Africa and in the U.S.A. has shown that racial intermixture takes place predominantly at the lowest educational and social levels. The problem has not, in fact, arisen at the open universities. To wreck a fruitful experiment for fear of such imaginary dangers is both arbitrary and fanatical.
The very fact of the existence of the two open universities has enhanced South Africa's reputation overseas. But it has meant more than that in South Africa itself. It has made possible contacts between students outside of lecture halls and laboratory classes—an essential part of university education.
It is these contacts which promote the transmission of Western standards and values to all students. European. African. Asiatic and colored. It has given concrete expression to the desire for goodwill between Europeans and non-Europeans. It has led to greater tolerance and understanding for it is only by meeting together that people of different groups can come to understand and respect one another.
The isolation of non-European from European students will inevitably increase group prejudice and engender a heightened nationalism in the segregated universities. This process is already manifest in South Africa.
To destroy the open system and replace it with complete segregation or even the Natal system of internal segregation would be to destroy one of the last bastions of tolerance and enlightenment in South Africa and to drive bitterness and despair deeper into the heart and mind of the non-European.
Ambrose Johannesburg.Bishop of Johannesburg.
N. E. CookerQ.C.
Errol E. Harris,professor of Philosophy, University of Witwatersrand.
R. Harvey,Director of Companies.
Elien HellmanPresident, South African Institute for Race Relations.
A. W. HoernleConvocation Member of the Council of the University of the Witwatersrand.
Trevor HuddlestonC.R. Provincial, Community of the Resurrection in South Africa.
J. S. MaralsProfessor of History, University of the Witwatesrand.
Robert Prefer,Bishop of Pretoria.
L. RablnonwitzChief Rabbi.
R. P. Y. RouseArchdeacon of Johannesburg.
R. TobiasSenior Lecturer in Anatomy, University of Witwatersrand.
J. B. WebbChairman of the Transvaal and Swaziland District of the Methodist Church.
M. C. WellerChief Minister of the Transvaal Association of tho Jewish Reformed Church.
John H. WellingtonProfessor of Geography, University of the Witwatersrand.
February 15th, 1954.