By Kate Douglas
You know that you are at university when one of your lecturers has been exiled from a country, you are always broke and there seems to be a protest almost every single day. Yes, it is great being a student and even better being a Rhodes student. I remember the first day I saw Rhodes University. My parents were dropping me off in O-week of my first year, their faces full of pride as they watched their daughter skip innocently along as we checked out the beautiful residences, departments and the library. Little did they know that Rhodes University would be the place where their pride and joy would learn the art of procrastination, experience absinthe and have naps with a cheese griller (no, not those kind of naps). However, it was also at Rhodes University that I learnt how to think for myself, developed self-confidence and made friends from different backgrounds and cultures. We are one of the top universities in the country. But we could be the best.
My job for the next 12 months is to make sure that Activate represents you, the Rhodes student. It doesn’t matter who you are or where you are from – if you are enrolled at Rhodes then it is this paper’s duty to represent you. I take this duty very seriously. You see, there is a big difference between representing your needs and representing the needs of Rhodes University. Recently, The Oppidan Press included a supplement in one of their editions that represented the views of the Dean of Students Division. Included was a column by the Dean of Students, Vivian De Klerk. This supplement was not written by their writers but was paid for by the Dean of Students Division. Now don’t get me wrong, The Oppidan Press has proven to be tough competition and Activate has had to pull its socks up since it was established. But as an independent student paper, I feel like they made their first dire mistake. The role of media within the process of democracy should have a watchdog role, meaning that it should challenge the authorities and institutions which govern the country. Student media is hardly an exception. Actually, it goes one step further. You see, as students we have a reputation for challenging the establishment. During Apartheid, when Activate was known as Rhodeo, a student writer inscribed “f*ck reform, smash Apartheid” on one of our office tables. This stands as a reminder that no matter how taboo something may be, students are usually the first to kick up a fuss.
My point is that Activate will strive to be critical of the establishment when students are dissatisfied. Often this may mean that the SRC and Dean of Students will be looked at disapprovingly. After all, they are supposed to be here to be representative of student needs and if they fail to achieve this, even slightly, then Activate will hold them accountable.
So, to my colleagues, my friends and my fellow activists, here’s to you, the future of the country, dirty purple overalls and all.