Rhodes University is to keep its name. The university council has agreed by 15 votes to nine to retain the identity of the university, named after the late Cecil John Rhodes. The university in a statement says that this does not mean that the colonial legacy is being underpinned as “Rhodes” represents a far better legacy that of the former Cape Prime Minister.
The Rhodes University council issued a statement earlier on Wednesday. It reported that it had held a meeting on 30 November.
A motion was tabled for the change of Rhodes University at that meeting. “Out of 24 members of council who were present and eligible to cast a ballot on this motion, nine members voted for the motion and 15 voted against the motion to change the name of Rhodes University.”
Thus the name, associated with the university since the turn of the last century, remains in place.
The council statement said: “The matter of the name of the university has been taken very seriously… it set in motion processes that would facilitate its speedy resolution. Given the university’s precarious financial position and the need for the university to prioritise transformation and be responsive to the challenges facing our society while maintaining its enviable academic credentials, the university cannot embark on a process of changing its name that will divert the limited resources it has.”
Calls for the name of the university to change first emerged during the FeesMustFall protests of 2015 on the campus.
The council reported that “it cannot be disputed that Cecil John Rhodes was an arch-imperialist and white supremacist who treated people of this region as sub-human. There is also a general consensus that there is not much to celebrate about him and the way he went about doing things.”
However, the council said there was concensus about what Rhodes University “has come to represent in terms of academic excellence and the brand it has developed to stand out amongst the best universities in the world”. This point, the council said, was held by both the proponents and opponents of the name change.
The council noted that the university had the best pass and graduation rates “of any South African university”.
The university had one of the best residential systems in the country “accommodating more than half of our students in well-appointed residences and serving more than 11 000 meals daily”.
Donwald Pressly is himself an alumnus of Rhodes University