Dear St Peter’s College Community,
In these uncertain and challenging times, divisions and tensions have escalated globally and the College has not been immune. Stories of racism at the College surfaced on social media last week. As already communicated, the specific student at the forefront of these was immediately suspended and has since left the College.
Unfortunately, the College Council has been led to believe this was not an isolated occurrence. It has since been alerted to a number of other incidents that are also cause for alarm. Accusations and counter-accusations have been made in public which have escalated divisions and tensions. Impatience and frustrations have also risen.
Despite some perceptions to the contrary, the Council responded immediately by establishing an independent committee to look into these matters. This Committee is not only made up of representatives from Council, the College (staff and students), parents and alumni, but also has an independent member. The Committee has been drawn up to reflect the diversity at the College.
The Committee is empowered to draw on external experts as and when required. This may involve calling on independent psychologists, transformation experts and suitably qualified legal counsel to chair disciplinary proceedings, for example.
In the week since the social media furore erupted, the Committee’s mandate has been established and the members appointed.
The initial Committee members are as follows:
Chair: Ms Inonge Maleshoane Council member and parent
Deputy-Chair: Adv Des Mahony Council vice-chair
Secretary: Mrs Nosipho Nkosi Marketing Manager and parent
Voting Members: Mr Dario Doneda Staff member
Revd Kabelo Motlhakane College Chaplain
Ms Keratiloe Didintle Mothusi Deputy Head Girl
Mrs Parmi Natesan Council Member and parent
Mrs Gugu Sepamla Independent member
Ms Vuyelwa Walugembe Staff member
Mr Jonathan Webb Head Boy
Mrs Camille Koukoutsis Staff Member
Permanent Invitees: Mr Praise Hassam Deputy Head Boy
Ms Natalie Molenaar Head Girl
Ms Didintle Netshiswinzhe Diversity Committee
Ms Thando Ntlabati Johannesburg Youth Council
The whole St Peter’s Community is encouraged to raise any matters with the Committee without fear or favour. Committee members may be approached as set up herein either directly or through the Committee. The email address firstname.lastname@example.org will be used for this purpose.
The Committee has a specific mandate to look into matters of racial, gender and other discrimination at the College. Its full terms of reference are available from any member or from the Committee Secretary, Mrs Nosipho Nkosi. The Committee will report back to Council within 30 days and does have the full support of Council, including delegated powers to deal appropriately with matters and to make recommendations on actions the College should take to avoid reoccurrences of unacceptable behaviour. These powers include disciplinary powers which may result in suspensions, expulsions and dismissals, reflecting the resolve of the Council to take decisive action.
The Committee has been given copies of all complaints within its mandate. These have already been lodged with the Headmaster and are receiving consideration in current and forthcoming deliberations.
As the Committee would prefer its work to be conducted in a constructive manner, this letter is an invitation to engage and help improve the College.
HOW CAN SUBMISSIONS BE MADE?
The Committee will treat all submissions it receives confidentially.
Any member of the College community (students, staff and parents) from this and the previous five years, can make submissions.
Submissions can be made in writing or orally.
- Written submissions can be made to any Committee member or to either of the following email addresses:
o SPCsubcom@gmail.com which will be forwarded to all Committee members;
o SPCsubcomchair@gmail.com which will be forwarded to the Committee Chair and anonymised before being shared with other Committee members.
- Oral submissions can be made by contacting the Committee Secretary and requesting time to address the Committee. The Committee has set aside Saturday, 13 June 2020 for the first videoconference serving this purpose.
WHAT CAN BE SUBMITTED?
In order for the Committee to complete its initial task in the given timeframe, it can only look at matters of racial and gender discrimination alleged against current staff or students, whenever or wherever this occurred. The Committee will also consider any actions that have flowed from these allegations. For the avoidance of doubt, the Committee will also consider social media matters, in as far as these are within the control of the College.
It would be preferable that persons making submissions have personal knowledge of and can substantiate the matters they wish to bring to the Committee’s attention.
WHAT PROCESS FOLLOWS A SUBMISSION?
All submissions made to the Committee should specify the desired outcome, for this to be considered during deliberations. This may include the following options:
- The Committee is just being informed and no specific action is expected;
- The Committee should sensitise the College community and/or the alleged offender that certain language or action is inappropriate and may result in disciplinary processes if repeated;
- The Committee should facilitate effective dialogue between affected parties;
- The Committee should make recommendations of changes that would help prevent a reoccurrence of the inappropriate behaviour;
- The Committee should take more serious action and discipline the student or employee concerned. If this is the desired outcome, confidentiality will automatically be waived and the submitter will be informed of the requirements to take the process forward.
WHAT IF SOMEONE IS IMPLICATED IN A SUBMISSION?
Anyone mentioned by name in a submission will be alerted to this fact, but will only be informed of the identity of the person making the allegation with the submitter’s permission, or if disciplinary action is under consideration. If disciplinary action is contemplated, the Committee will proceed in terms of the Code of Conduct, employment contracts where relevant, and the law as appropriate.
In both scenarios those mentioned will be given the opportunity to respond, if they so wish. Implicated persons can contact the Committee Secretary and request a time to address the Committee. The Committee has set aside Saturday, 20 June 2020 for a videoconference for this purpose. The session merely provides a platform for dialogue and does not constitute a formal disciplinary hearing, which will be held separately if deemed necessary.
WHAT FINAL OUTCOME CAN BE EXPECTED?
The College community will be presented with the Committee’s key findings, after submission to the Council and direction from the Council Chair on the precise procedure to be followed. Anyone proved to have acted inappropriately will be disciplined and in serious instances may be expelled or dismissed from the College.
The intended outcomes following any matters dealt with are to reduce tensions at the College, educate the College community on transformation issues, and improve cohesion and unity amongst all stakeholders.
Inonge Maleshoane - Chair