The Socio-Economic Rights Institute (SERI) acts for Yolanda Dyantyi in a number of matters concerning her participation in anti-rape protests on the Rhodes University campus during April 2016. Our client has instructed us to issue this statement to the media in response to the recent online campaign #RhodesWar.
Between 17 and 20 April 2016, a large number of Rhodes students participated in a campus-based protest against what they saw as an entrenched culture of rape and sexual violence against women. The protestors believed that the University’s management and administration had enabled a culture in which rape and sexual violence against women were both permitted and condoned. The protestors also believed that the University enabled this culture by permitting a number of practices which promoted gender-based violence.
One example of this culture was the fact that University’s own website described first year women students as “seals” that are ripe for “clubbing” (a euphemism for older male students aggressively pursuing sexual contact with younger women). The University also promoted “serenades” in which male students randomly select young women to take back to their dormitory rooms, in circumstances where there is no doubt that sexual contact is expected and condoned.
In March 2017, eleven months after the April 2016 protests concluded, the University instituted disciplinary proceedings against Ms. Dyantyi. When the time came for the disciplinary inquiry to hear Ms. Dyantyi’s evidence, the Chairperson of the proceedings postponed the inquiry to a date on which he knew none of Ms. Dyantyi’s legal representatives could attend the inquiry, because they had competing commitments in court. SERI made every effort to persuade the Chairperson to continue the proceedings on a date that Ms. Dyantyi could give evidence with the assistance of her legal representatives.
Ms. Dyantyi was convicted in her absence, and permanently excluded from the University. All of her most recent examinations were invalidated. Her transcript was endorsed with the words “Unsatisfactory Conduct: Student found guilty of assault, kidnapping, insubordination and defamation”.
As far as SERI has been able to ascertain, this is the harshest penalty the University has imposed for ten years for any offence whatsoever, including rape and sexual violence on campus. The endorsement on Ms. Dyantyi’s transcript is unusual. Ordinarily, a student’s transcript does not record disciplinary offences of which she has been convicted. In setting out the offences of which Ms. Dyantyi has been found guilty, the transcript will effectively prevent Ms. Dyantyi from registering elsewhere. SERI has advised Ms. Dyantyi that this sanction is wholly unreasonable and unlawful.
SERI believes that the University’s treatment of Ms. Dyantyi has been disproportionate, unfair and unlawful.