An Alumnus writes
Most alumni from the 1970’s are reluctant to see the name of Rhodes University, change. As graduates and concerned, thinking products of our fine university, we are sensitive to the issues of transformation and decolonisation. We are aware of the importance of the move away from Western influences in education to be replaced by a more embracing Afro-centric curriculum.
There are, however, more reasons than merely sentimental ones, to retain the present name. Perhaps the main reason to to get rid of “Rhodes” is symbolic. C J Rhodes was the arch-imperialist, an unmitigated exploiter of the people of South Africa. His name serves as a reminder of this woeful time in our history.
The real value of the name lies elsewhere. The name “Rhodes” on the degree parchment has relevance far beyond the historical context. The Rhodes Brand is recognised internationally. The reputation of the brand has many massively positive influences. Our graduates are seen as eminently employable, not only for the quality of the degrees but also because of the ethos that has been built up over 112 years. This unparalleled record of excellence in the employment environment will most likely disappear with the name. The loss of this invaluable reputation will be profound and tragic for generations of future graduates, irrespective of race or culture.
The argument, as with the Rhodes Scholarships, is that if a person feels so strongly against the association with Rhodes, they should refuse the scholarship and refund the money. (Or why apply in the first place?) The counter argument is: accepting the money is a way of putting right the historical exploitation. The “Rhodes” money is being channelled back to the benefit of the descendants of those exploited.
C J Rhodes was dead when the Trustees granted the 50,000 pounds which founded the university college in 1904. The immense fortune Rhodes acquired founded a university that today is serving a student complement, a majority of whom are the descendants of the very people who suffered under colonial exploitation and oppression.
In our opinion the name should be retained: it is an advantage in the shrinking employment market as a brand that produces well-educated, industrious and efficient graduates. Let is not lose this vital reputation to pay lip-service to revolutionary sentiment. Let the name remain as a constant reminder to never let the suffering of the past be repeated. To ignore the lessons of history merely allows those lessons and crimes to be repeated.
1. Identity – covered
2. Students – covered
3. Curriculum – in the Arts I assume this process is underway with a calculated swing towards a
more Afro-centric content. As far as science is concerned this is beyond my
area of expertise.
4. Staff - transformation as a natural result of demographic representation.
5. Graduation - I recently attended my own Masters degree ceremony, and the Bachelor degree
ceremonies of both my children. I was uplifted and impressed by the blend of
old style, ponderous dignity (scarlet gowns, PhD hoods etc) and the natural, joyous
applause, ululating and waving of my Black compatriots. Surely this a positive
indication of transformation taking place without force, coercion and unnecessary
by Quentin Hogge (1970-1974 and 2014)