How did we get here? Remembering #RUReferenceList for #RUReferenceList2

On the night of 26 March,  the “UCKAR Student Body 2017” Facebook page erupted in questions and commentary regarding the naming of four student body members, and one residence hall. Echoing the events of last year’s #RUReferenceList protest, the listed names once again brought to light issues of sexual assault, rape and institutional culture at UCKAR.

Students gather outside Cullen Bowles residence and call for people inside to come out.

26 March 2017, similar to 17 April 2016, fell on a Sunday. 17 April 2016 saw the emergence of the original “reference list”, with mass student mobilisation occurring later that evening. The events of 26 March shared this same pattern. After the release of names on social media, students met at midnight to discuss a way forward. The meeting consisted of approximately 50 students, and suggestions were discussed in regards to further mobilisation and protest.

In light of #RUReferenceList 2016, the resulting creation of the Sexual Violence Task Team was heavily criticised. Students expressed concerns that the task team failed to actively change institutional culture surrounding rape and sexual violence. This concern prompted students to acknowledge that the dominant target for this year’s #RUReferenceList2 was the institution.

Noting an alleged assault that transpired several weeks ago at Robert Sobukwe residence, students mobilised to Sobukwe to encourage students inside to join the protest. Given recent year’s discussions regarding transformation and decolonisation, the focus on Sobukwe residence is not unexpected.

The Oppidan Press acknowledges the extreme emotional and mental effects of the 2016 #RUReferenceList protest, and would like to remind students, staff, and community members that with the emergence of 2017’s #RUReferenceList2, care is necessary when discussing concerned topics. We will do our best to provide factual and objective coverage of the protest, while keeping in mind the well-being of fellow students, victims, survivors, and our team.

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Words by Kathryn Cleary