By David Shields and Ithuteng Mashabela
Rhodes University’s Student Representative Council is seen as an organisation which exists with the aim of representing the interest of all the University’s students. Its mission statement describes it as a “student approachable institution which fosters a conducive developmental environment in and out of the academic sphere.” However, it seems that after O-week this council of ours is hard to be seen. A common opinion among Rhodents is that it is really only during the weeks leading up to the elections that any visible effort takes place. “The SRC needs to be more in-your-face,” says concerned second year Law student Lebo Motsumi, “just like they are during the elections.”
Perhaps this is so. Perhaps the question we should really be asking is not that of the SRC’s visibility, but rather the student’s awareness thereof. The SRC’s homepage is unfortunately not the place to begin looking in the pursuit of increasing one’s awareness. The page has not been updated since last year and much of the information is about 2008 events. The next option would be to rely on receiving information via word of mouth. In their defence though, certain events, such as the Community Engagement Week, an initiative which ran from 16-20 March, have been publicised through student zone and by mass e-mail.
Upon looking further into the issue, it became apparent that the SRC does more for the students than we expect and realise. Small tasks which we take for granted are often overlooked. For instance, the efforts that the SRC made through petitions in the recent Breakfast saga are unknown by most students. The minuscule cereal portions and lack of cooked food was supplemented with eggs or yoghurt on alternating days, partly as a result of the SRC’s efforts.
Various students were asked around campus as to how they feel about the SRC. “They lack communication with the students,” said Simthembile Xeketewana, third year head of house at Centenary Residence, although he also pointed out that he receives much help from the SRC societies representative. “I don’t really know what their job is as I never see any action taking place,” Stewart Hislop, a 3rd year was quick to point out.
Some students, however, disagree with the perception that the SRC is inefficient or ineffective in its attempts to represent the needs of students. “The SRC is always busy with some or other project,” explains Walker House sub-warden Karabo Motaung. “We just don’t participate in enough of these projects, and then we still complain.” Second year BSS student Gina Harding agrees with this, adding her view that, “most of what they do is probably behind-the-scenes work, so it’s not always that easy to notice.”
Admittedly, there is only so much that the SRC can do to attempt to encourage student participation in its events. The responsibility falls on both this institution to maintain frequent and consistent communication between itself and the students, and on the students to listen out for upcoming events.