Marching to a different beat : conversations about diversity with minority women students at a historically white university

Damons, Lynne (2006-03)

Thesis (MEd)--Stellenbosch University, 2006.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: Transformation of South Africa's historically white universities IS evidenced by a diversification of their student and staff populations. The transition from exclusion to inclusion of minority cultures in these university campuses has not been without its challenges for those students. This study provides a record of the experiences of five coloured women who are undergraduate students at Stellenbosch University (SU), a predominantly white institution. The approach used is feminist, grounded participatory action research. Despite institutional policy initiatives, the Coloured undergraduate students in the study did not experience the university environment as inclusive. What emerged was that the women had an acute awareness of othernesses and their own minority status. Factors such as the small number of minority students and the absence of symbols or icons that reflect and acknowledge the presence of diverse cultures exacerbate their feeling of being in the minority or 'tolerated otherness'. The women experienced SU as a university where established practices and traditions continue despite the changing demographics of the student population. This type of organisational culture in which covert and overt resistance to transformation is the norm acts as a constraint on the political will to move from policy to practice and entrenches the marginalisation of minority groups. The study found that integration is left largely to personal initiative. Personal variables such as resilience, strategies for coping with stress and the resolution of identity issues, appear to playa key role in academic success. However, academic success is not always accompanied by successful social integration. Social isolation was found to have a negative impact on personal and academic confidence. Although the women in the study have had relatively negative experiences of transformation, their willingness to engage in reflexive praxis and dialogue could serve as a challenge to SU to engage in a process which acknowledges the concerns, resistance and experience of all role-players.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Die transformasie van histories-blanke Suid-Afrikaanse universiteite word gekenmerk aan die diversifisering van hulle studente en personeel. Hierdie proses vind plaas deur die geleidelike wegbeweeg van die algehele uitsluiting van die minderheidsgroepe op die betrokke kampusse tot hulle volledige insluiting by aIle bedrywighede. Die proses is nie sonder uitdagings vir die betrokke studente nie. In hierdie studie word die ervaringe beskryf van vyf bruin vroulike voorgraadse studente aan die SteIlenbsoch Universiteit (US), 'n oorwegend-blanke tersiere instelling. Vir hierdie studie is 'n feministiese benadering wat gebaseer is op deelnemende aksienavorsing gebruik. Ten spyte van institusionele beleidsinisiatiewe om genoemde transformasie te bespoeding, het die voorgraadse bruin studente wat aan hierdie studie deelgeneem het, nie die universiteitsomgewing as inklusief ervaar nie. Dit het eerder duidelik geword dat die dames baie bewus was van hulle andersheid en hulle minderheidstatus. Faktore soos die klein aantal minderheidstudente en die afwesigheid van simbole of ikone wat die teenwoordigheid van diverse kulture reflekteer en erken, het hulle ervaring as behorende tot 'n minderheidsgroep versterk. Die dames het die US ervaar as 'n universiteit waar ingewortelde praktyke en tradisies voortgesit word ten spyte van die veranderende demografie van die studentebevolking. Hierdie soort organisatoriese kultuur waar bedekte en openlike teenstand tot transformasie die norm is, plaas 'n demper op die politieke gewilligheid om van beleid na praktyk te beweeg en verdiep die marginalisering van minderheidsgroepe. Die bevindings van die studie is dat integrasie grootliks oorgelaat word aan persoonlike inisiatiewe. Persoonlikeheidseienskappe soos gedetermineerde optrede, die benutting van strategiee om stres te hanteer en identiteitskrisisse op te los, speel blykbaar 'n sleutelrol in akademiese sukses. Akademiese sukses loop egter nie altyd hand aan hand met sosiale integrasie nie. Daar is bevind dat sosiale isolasie 'n negatiewe impak op persoonlike en akademiese vertroue het. Alhoewel die ervarings van die dames wat aan die studie deelgeneem het relatief negatiewe was ten opsigte van transformasie, was hulle tog gewillig om deel te neem aan die reflektiewe praksis en dialoog. Hierdie feit dien as 'n uitdaging aan die Stellenbosch Universiteit om betrokke te raak by 'n proses waarin die bekommemisse, weerstande en ervaringe van aIle rolspelers hanteer word.

Please refer to this item in SUNScholar by using the following persistent URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/50621
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