Stellenbosch University campus has approximately 31 residences (‘rezes’). Most are single-sex residences. There are also a number of private student organisations, which support students living in private accommodation while attending the university. Much of what is seen as the ‘typical Stellenbosch experience’ is linked to living in a residence.

1. Residence practices and initiations

Residences have unique initiation practices and residence traditions, meant to foster community and unity. Yet many have been criticised as harmful, either because of the actual practice or because of the social and gender norms it promotes.

“I feel like even though these initiations are light-hearted, and they’re supposed to show that you are proud of your rez, it’s contributing to the presence of campus rape culture.”

“I just think that this picture of the knight is a physical embodiment of how entitled and powerful male residences believe that they are.”

“Again another driver of campus rape culture that came up was traditions within male residences.”

“And I feel quite disrespected as a woman, because this type of mentality of control is exactly what we’re trying to get away from.”

“The culture in male residences, men don’t stop each other. Instead they applaud each other and they protect each other so that their residence pride is intact.”

“And the things they did or the HK (residence’s student leadership council) did to them as first years was horrible and he would never go back.”

“He said that it is not conducive to have monitors only for the two weeks during the welcoming week only… (It is) afterwards, during the year, that’s when the problematic behaviour starts.”

“And it symbolises a female-male rez partnership in Vensters (a 15-minute show that’s part of welcoming week). And I just got thinking, like, why has it always been a male to female rez?”

“And I don’t know why men’s residences are basically allowed to do whatever they want, and there are no repercussions for that.”

2. Safety in residences

Residences are supposed to be a student’s ‘home away from home’. But are students safe in these ‘homes’? Many stories were shared of how women students were afraid, mistreated and violated within residences – even the ones they themselves live in.

“The next day there was no discussion, no repercussion to the male mentor, which is highly problematic if he’s in a space of leadership.”

“And she told the rez ‘this guy knows where I live, but please don’t give him my real number.’ And they assured her that was against policy. Anyway, he came to the rez building, and he asked for the room number and they gave it to him.”

“Supposedly the HK (residence’s student leadership council) passed around his card, so it allowed I think four or five non-students into the residence.”

“I felt very vulnerable standing in the centre of like this enclosed space, but it also reminded me that this is the home to many victims that have been violated within their safe space…”

“When you as a person, as a woman of colour, enter into a male residence, a lot of the time it’s the white males who treat you very, very differently.”

“That idea that there are bars in male rezzes, there are no bars in female rezzes. So it’s like sort of this thing that lures females out of their rezzes and take them into male rezzes where they can get drunker for cheaper.”

“’Skakels’ (organised social events between rezzes, usually a men’s rez and a women’s rez) came up again and how those are really big influences of how campus life goes moving forward and it felt like enough wasn’t being done at the ‘skakels’ to prevent like instances of harassment…”

Thank you for exploring the first shared theme of Residences. Please click below to move onto the second shared theme of Fear.