Constitutional Hill

All hail independent thought

Last week Beeld newspaper printed shocking pictures of students at the Potchefstroom campus of Northwest University giving the Nazi “Sieg Heil” salute. It transpired that for many years first year students at this University had been forced by senior students to give this salute as part of a deeply embedded culture of “initiation” at university residences aimed at cultivating “group spirit”. This practice of “initiation” – which forces vulnerable first year students to indulge in acts that border on hate speech – is, of course, incompatible with the true purpose of an institution of higher learning.

Ideally a University is a place where young people will be relatively free to explore new ideas, to question widely accepted beliefs or cultural practices, to experiment, to reconsider received dogma, to make mistakes and to question the wisdom of their elders and those in authority.

Students who attend such an institution are extraordinarily privileged as they are often given the space and the ability to acquire the tools to begin to decide for themselves who they are, what ideological course they want to chart, and according to which norms and values they wish to live their lives.

In such an institution students are free to pursue different forms of knowledge – both inside and outside the classroom. In dorm rooms, in cafeterias, in bars, in political meetings and even in the library, students making the best of the opportunity will pursue new and exciting forms of academic knowledge and ideas as well as knowledge and ideas about themselves and the larger world in which they live.

A good University is also one where the opportunities exist for students to learn more from fellow students who are different from them (because of their race, their sexual orientation, their language or their class) and about the wider world in which they live.

At a mediocre University, on the other hand, these opportunities will not exist or will be curtailed by a semi-authoritarian or group-based culture which may punish or discourage individuality, otherness and creativity.

In such a University the management and student leaders will be scared of free thought and will try to stifle free speech and debate. Older students will try to impose their authority and the culture of loyalty to the “group” on new students through initiation practices and through other forms of social control.

In such a mediocre institution conformity and loyalty to the group will be prized above all else and respect for (certain forms of) authority will be inculcated through fear, group pressure and by playing on students’ eagerness to belong and not to be “Othered”.

That is why, in my opinion, allowing any form of “initiation” of first year students at a University is a sure sign that the institution has embraced educational mediocrity (in the broadest sense) in the name of loyalty to the group and in the name of tradition. “Initiation” is the handmaiden of group conformity and “groupthink” and the enemy of real and critical thought, reflection and deep learning.

Matters are made worse when, as part of the process of enforcing conformity through initiation, first year students – under the guise of “tradition” and of “having fun” – are required to give the Nazi “Sieg Heil” salute to those who are conducting the initiation, as happened at the Potchefstroom campus of North West University as recently as this year.

Defenders of this practice have made the extraordinary claim that students at North West University are not aware that the “Sieg Heil” salute is associated with Adolf Hitler and the Nazis, who killed six million Jews, homosexuals and Gypsies during the Holocaust. Forcing first year students to execute the “Sieg Heil” salute, they claim, was therefore “just” an innocent joke.

It would, of course, be quite a shocking indictment of the quality of Potchefstroom students if they were really ignorant about the fact that the “Sieg Heil” salute is now practically exclusively associated across the world with the most notorious and widely known oppressive regime of the 20th Century.

Given the fact that depictions of Nazism (including the “salute”) permeate popular culture – including in innumerable movies, TV series and books – one would have to be extraordinarily ignorant and cut off from mainstream culture to be unaware that the “Sieg Heil” salute has acquired world-wide notoriety because of its association with Adolf Hitler and the Nazi party’s crimes against humanity.

Making the salute is prohibited in many countries across Europe on the basis that it symbolises the evils of Nazi Germany and because it may be used to re-awaken the bigotry and prejudices which lead the mass killing of millions of people because of their religious or social origin or sexual orientation.

I suspect that in South Africa, some contexts, the giving of the “Sieg Heil” salute would also amount to hate speech in terms of the Promotion of Equality and Prevention of Unfair Discrimination Act (PEPUDA).

Section 10 of the Act states that no person may publish, propagate, advocate or communicate words based on grounds such as ethnic or social origin, religion or culture against any person that could reasonably be construed to demonstrate a clear intention to be hurtful.

Because words can also be communicated through gestures and because making the “Sieg Heil” salute in a manner that seems to endorse or celebrate – not critique – Nazi gestures is hurtful to many of us who know that we too would have been targeted for extermination by the Nazi’s if we had lived in Europe during the Second World War, giving the salute may very well, in certain context, constitute hate speech against people of Jewish origin or against gay men and lesbians.

I might be wrong, but I suspect the Potchefstroom students of 2014 may not actually have intended the salute to be hurtful to Jews or gay men or lesbians. While any reasonable person would view the giving of the Nazi salute as shocking and upsetting, wether a reasonable person would construe the enforcement of the salute at Potchefstroom initiation ceremonies as intending to hurt Jews or gay men and lesbians is, in my opinion, not clear. In other contexts the giving of the salute will, however, almost certainly amount to hate speech as defined by PEPUDA.

I would guess that the “tradition” of forcing first year students to make the “Sieg Heil” salute may have more to do with a nostalgic yearning for the “good old days” of Afrikaner Nationalism and Apartheid. After all, during and after the second World War Afrikaner Nationalists – especially those who were members of the Ossewa Brandwag – displayed strong sympathy for the Nazi’s.

But the meaning and effect of this practice may be more complex.

Given its origin and predominant symbolism, some students may also be attracted to enforcing the giving of the “Sieg Heil” salute because it is associated with authoritarianism more generally. The well-known film footage of hundreds of thousands of Germans giving the “Sieg Heil” salute to pledge allegiance to Hitler and the Nazi party (re-enacted in many movies) reminds us of the role the salute played in pledging and affirming (in a theatrical manner) the German nations loyalty to the Nazi party.

As such, re-enacting the Nazi salute may also be a way of inculcating into first year students the belief that they need to belong to the larger group and must display uncritical loyalty to that group – just as Germans were expected to display uncritical loyalty to the Nazis.

I would argue the salute aims to inculcate into students exactly those values that cannot be squared with the well-functioning University. Where it is practiced and defended it reaffirms that the dominant student culture aims to promote  group-think and to discourage critical thinking and reflection. Such a culture makes it more difficult to be different, to think different thoughts, to live a different life from that imposed by the group culture.

This imposition of conformity is not to be squared with encouraging independent thought at an academic institution. After all, education – at its very best – is dangerous: it makes people question authority and conventional wisdom and allows them to start thinking for themselves, unfettered by the shackles of group pressure.

  • 1Zoo1

    I saw the video and to be honest it is really a storm in a tea cup. Its part of a group song, black and white getting along and all singing together.

    Anyway, the Education Department is run by a communist. Communists murdered between 160 and 200 million of their own civilians in the 20th century.

    Hitler (also a left wing socialist whose policies resonate with the ANC’s) murdered approximately 6 million.

    What an amateur!

    I would say allowing a communist to run the education department is more insulting and hateful than anything these students could dream up.

  • Hermann Hanekom

    I think a response to this one sided hypocracy is not worth the time. I will rather raise my fist and shout “amandla” and it will be OK because I am black, I will rather sing “kill the farmer, kill the boer” and it is Ok because I am black and and I will sing “bring me my machine gun” and it is OK because I am black, Cry beloved country.

  • Dan Roodt

    Yes, Pierre de Vos is the living embodimente of “groupthink”, yet here he is worried that a few students waving their arms in the air are going to rush out and kill Jews and gays.

    Communism and communists have murdered more people in the twentieth century than any other ideology, approximately 100 million, yet no mention is made of that. What about the hammer and sickle, for God’s sake? Shouldn’t that be banned too? Oh yes, I seem to recall we have a communist minister of higher education. Mmm, OK, so that explains why our groupthinking little “constitutional” conformist omits even a brief mention of the C-word. He is scared of losing his job, his little tenured-radical soapbox at the cultural-Marxist mental institution known as the University of Cape Town.

    Really, this country is a total circus. If anyone had told me 20 years ago that I would become an ardent separatist, I would have told them they were crazy. Yet our only hope is to escape from this lunatic asylum with its PC culture wars, its rape and violence, its degradation and imbecilic ideologues who unleash one witch-hunt after the other upon totally innocent victims.

  • Pierre de Vos

    I was hoping any of these comments actually engaged with the substance of the argument I presented. Sadly not. Oh well, one day.

  • Pieter

    Typical this de Vos guy, talk a lot say nothing.

  • Pieter

    Dan, dit was goed gesê.


    I detest all initiations. They have no place in modern society whatsoever.

  • Dan Roodt

    Sjoe, is daar enige “substansie”? Daardie idioot wat Desmond Tutu se “analise” van apartheid in die WVK-verslag geskryf het, het mos beweer dat Afrikaners oor ‘n “outoritêre kultuur” beskik en toe een of ander aanhalinkie uit Adorno gegee. Sover ek onthou, was hy ook van die Universiteit van Kaapstad.

    Ek dink jy adem maar net die soort Boerehaatteorieë wat op jou kampus rondsweef uit en die meeste van die tyd weet jy nie eens waar hulle vandaan kom nie, weens ‘n gebrekkige kennis van Westerse denke, filosofie en geskiedenis.

    Tydens die Weimarrepubliek het Hitler in stryd getree met die kommuniste en naarstiglik gesoek na simbole en rituele wat hulle s’n kon naboots. Pleks van die hamer-en-sekel het hy die swastika gekies wat blykbaar op sy Katolieke kerkgebou in Oostenryk iewers al baie lank vertoon is.

    Die oorspronklike model vir nasionaal-sosialistiese rituele en simbole was dus kommunisme. Soos ‘n hele paar mense, onder andere die Nederlandse politikus Martin Bosma, onlangs opgemerk het, was nasionaal-SOSIALISME eintlik ‘n linkse ideologie. Beide kommunisme en NS verteenwoordig vorme van “burgerlike godsdiens” of dan die aanbidding van wat Koos Malan in sy boek Politokrasie “die jaloerse god”, die staat, genoem het.

    Jou “ontleding” – dis nie ‘n ontleding nie, want jy poog geensins om enige werklike neutrale beskrywing of begrip van die voorval aan te bied nie – verteenwoordig, soos ek reeds gesê het, op sigself ‘n afskuwelike stuk “groupthink” en konformisme.

    Kom ons neem nou ‘n hele paar treë terug, soos die spreekwoordelike “antropoloog vanaf Mars” sou kon doen. Waarmee jy besig is, is presies waarvan jy die studente op Potch beskuldig. Jy voel jouself deel van ‘n groep – die linkse Engelse stam van vervelige, dom akademici op Rondebosch. Behalwe jy is ‘n effense buitestaander wat nie eintlik Engels is nie, daarom moet jy die waardes van jou groep – asook jou Boerehaat – nog meer beklemtoon in ‘n angsvallige poging om tot die groep te behoort.

    Dus, Afrikaners is Nazi’s. Of ten minste diegene wat tydens die tweede wêreldoorlog lede van die Ossewabrandwag was. Dit strook met die amptelike SAKP-siening deur die lid Brian Bunting in sy boek The Rise of the South African Reich.

    Wat jy onder “kritiese denke” verstaan is juis om binne stamverband te konformeer en die vooroordele van jou groep klakkeloos te herhaal en op Afrikanerstudente te projekteer. Waarskynlik beskik vele van daardie meisies wat hul koshuislied sing en hul arms in die lug swaai oor meer kritiese denke as ‘n paar departemente aan die UK saam. In elk geval sal jy nie weet nie, want jy het met geen van hulle gepraat nie; nie eens Beeld het hulle menings gevra nie. Soos onder Stalin, word daar aan hulle vertel: Ons wéét julle dink sus, en van nou af aan sal hulle só dink.

    Gesien vanuit ‘n (kultuur)-marxistiese oogpunt, is ‘n “goed funksionerende universiteit” een waar studente die “kritiese teorie” van Horkheimer of Marcuse of Adorno of wie ook al bemeester, tesame natuurlik met Das Kapital, en daarna die wêreld om hulle “krities” begin ontleed. Die postmoderne filosowe – en verder terug natuurlik Nietzsche – het reeds jare gelede aangetoon tot welke mate die marxisme dieselfde struktuur as dié van ‘n godsdiens vertoon.

    Dus, om “krities te dink” beteken binne jou raamwerk – of dié van jou stammetjie Boerehaters aan die UK, wat een en dieselfde raamwerk is – om “sonde” by ander raak te sien. Dit gaan om die afdwing van die polities korrekte kode en daar word fundamentalisties genoeg van ons almal verwag om hulle daarby neer te lê. Ook die koshuisstudente op Potch.

    Nes onder kommunisme en NS, gryp die staat in elke aspek van ons lewens in: in die ekonomie, in die opvoeding, in die verhouding tussen ouers en kinders, in ons openbare en privaatlewens. Die staat, asook akademici wat blykbaar nie meer “navorsing” doen nie, maar hulle voltyds met heksejagte op “sondaars” besig hou, bedreig op ‘n wesentlike manier ons vryheid.

    Hierdie staatlike “morele leer” wat met fanatisme op ons afgedwing word en waar selfs ons taal en onskuldige gebare deur die linkse dwepers – amper het ek die woord “ajatollas” gebruik, maar ek dink dit sou ‘n belediging vir Moslems wees – gepolisieer word, staan in jukstaposisie met die bandelose wreedheid, verkragting en sadisme wat ons jaar na jaar in Suid-Afrika ervaar. Soos alle vorme van fanatisme, is politieke korrektheid wêreldvreemd en glad nie van toepassing op die “wrede paradys” waarin ons woon nie.

    Die haas totalitêre en fanatiese denkbeelde van politieke korrektheid is so ver verwyder van die Afrikanerkultuur en -lewensbeskouing, wat in die Joods-Christelike godsdiens en die Europese Verligting gewortel is, dat ons nie meer dieselfde land kan deel nie. Net soos Indië en Pakistan na godsdiens in twee state uiteengeval het, sal Suid-Afrika in ten minste twee state verdeel moet word.

    In dié opsig is voorvalle soos dié rondom Potch dalk op die duur heilsaam: dit moet uiteindelik tot ‘n totale breuk tussen die Afrikaner en die Azaniese “populêre republiek” lei. Hoe gouer dit kan gebeur, hoe beter.

  • Riaan Jansen Van Vuren
  • Stephan Van Vuuren II

    I am sorry to say, Professor, but you have equated a student res hand gesture (that many of us identify with on an innocent level), with Nazi Germany. I think you shouldn’t talk about substance, as you have drunk the Kool-Aid the media has prepared for you and you look all the worst for it.

  • 1Zoo1

    Joining a hostel and becoming part of the hostel community is not “group think”.

    Its about these kids forging their own little community. None of these kids seem to be pressed to think a certain way – no doubt this has nothing to do with their studies where they will be learning to express themselves.

    They already have a little bit of “life” behind them and can still make their own minds up.

    To equate this with a “political re-education” camp of Soviet Russia and so on is taking this way, way too far.

    Besides, the left-wing encourages non-critical thought at all levels. You are proudly left-wing and have expressed admiration of communists(!). So perhaps its not surprising you were looking for something familiar here.

  • Freddie de Lange

    Wat is “meer gebalansseerd” aan daardie artikel Riaan? Lyk vir my maar eensydig… “Puk is reg en Beeld is verkeerd… Klaar!”

  • Freddie de Lange

    I’ll read your article later, and maybe I will comment… Looking forward to reading it in depth.

  • Mathys du Preez

    Jis, Dan, dit is inderdaad moeilik om die frustrasies van wit Afrikaanse mense te verwoord, dis moeilik omdat al die ander lande se mense dink liberaal het ‘n plek in die samelewing en selfs ‘n politieke party wat eenvoudig die leberale party heet, maar hier is liberaal gelyk aan rasisme en wittes en nie konformeerders. Ek is seker die professor praat nie vir alle homoseksuele individue nie, maar ek sou se as jy liefde en aanvaarding wil he, moet jy dit uitdeel, jy saai wat jy maai, of so iets.

  • Lethabo Mashego

    You make some valid points in the article. However as a first year student myself, iv gone through the initiation process. The initiation process is set out to teach first year students on the principles and traditions of the Varsity or the Res. in the case of the article part of their tradition is to perform a dance routine for the elder students in the Res. They did so out of their own choice and were not forced to do it. at the same time it was not the intentions of the students to portray the “Sieg Heil”. it was a simple dance routine and did not specifically bring in the salute, the video was just blown out of proportion. In the Varsity im in there are rules and regulations to the initiation process that ensures that such does not happen that portrays the Varsity in a negative light.
    Yes ‘a sense of belonging’ is something we as people need and want to feel. but is our choice to what we belong!
    Residences do not only provide affordable accommodation, but also a platform for students to socialize with other students and make friends, in a lonely phase of life for the ‘socially awkward’. They have various traditions that allow first year students to interact with each other and make memories with new life-time friends.
    There is nothing i agree more with, than the danger of education.

  • Gayle 14041287

    Initiations no longer serve their purpose. It used to represent a sense of belonging and a sense of pride. Unfortunately as time went on this process began to be abused and instead it now represents punishment. All forms of initiation should be banned from all institutions because the relevant government and university authorities have failed to control its practice.

  • Kayla Pereira

    In my opinion all forms of initiation should be banned from institutions such as high schools and universities because the authorities have failed to control initiation and its practices. Although initiation is a way for first year students to become familiarised with the rules and traditions of the university, some senior students take it “overboard” and cause harm, (intentional or not) to other younger students. Communists have murdered way more people than those murdered in the Holocaust and surprisingly the Education department is run by a communist? I believe that actions do speak louder than words and body language does convey a hidden meaning, however these students were taking part in a group dance for the older students and did not intentionally mean to display the “Sieg Heil” sign. Furthermore in the last paragraph saying “After all, education – at its very best – is dangerous: it makes people question authority and conventional wisdom and allows them to start thinking for themselves, unfettered by the shackles of group pressure” I believe that it is encouraged in universities for students to start thinking for themselves and to question life, after all if we all thought the same, would life still be so interesting?

  • Laurika Lora Rautenbach

    Initiation has gotten out of control the last few years. I believe that educational institutions should rather concentrate more on academic than anything else. Insidents such as the “Seig Heil” may have been just a joke , but to others it may have been deeply insulting and hurtful. Initiation is to promote group thinking , however i feel one should focus more on critcal thinking. We should explore ideas and new theories and question everything. Not follow a few people blindly like sheep, but be different and independant. Initiation should be removed from educational institutions. (14247543)

  • Erika Potgieter 14139414

    I often wonder what people think will happen when you put one group of students in charge of another, as with initiation?

    I doubt that the seniors of NWU had any real insult in mind. I believe it was just a way to humiliate the first years and to make them acknowledge the authority the seniors supposedly had. I do not think they thought far enough ahead to realize the potential consequences it would have.

    As for initiation I completely agree that it should be eradicated. The supposed fun it offers is outweighed by the emotional and psychological damage suffered by those who have to go through it.

    A university is a place of diversity. It is a place of higher learning where students should be encouraged to think for themselves and embrace the differences between people, not conform to a specific group. Initiation does not promote this.

  • Vaughn Rossouw

    We at the University of Pretoria support the idea that no senior student has any authority over a first year student and that all students are equal. Initiation is a thing of the past. Why do we then attend a tertiary institute? To become familiar with a mature society and to learn to fight for human dignity and bodily integrity.

  • Stiaan Krause

    I cannot but disagree with quite a few statements made in this article by Mr de Vos. Firstly it is necessary to understand that although residence at a specific University, falls under that University, but quite frankly has no impact on the academic value that a certain University can add to a student’s life. I am personally not a student at Potchefstroom University, I am a first year student elsewhere. Saying that traditions that play an immense role in residence life, can result to the mediocrity of that university is a laughing matter. A University must be measured by its academic performance. The residence may very well be measured by the traditions they have, but it does not make a university mediocre in any way. That thus brings me to my second point. Traditions play a vital role in residence life. The main reason for the greeting is to be put in a position where first years learn the seniors’ names as quickly as possible. The traditions of a specific residence has been for many years set in place and the aim of a traditions or certain initiation is not to embarrass certain persons, the aim of initiation is to achieve a certain amount of respect. Some first years usually come into a residence with an attitude, I have seen with my own eyes how they lose that attitude within a week without being embarrassed. Pertaining to the “sieg heil” salute, I really don’t think the Potch students are planning to follow in Hitler’s footsteps. I also don’t think that it is ignorant by saying they do not know of the connotations to this salute. Most of the students depicted in this picture were born in 1995. They are not ignorant, it is just a case of they had nothing to do with WWII nor Hitler’s policies. Arguing that this salute may be insulting to certain people, makes me believe they must be in res and man up a bit! Thanks to the Beeld’s sensationalism about this salute it has resulted in residences’ traditions being taken away all over. I am in the privileged situation to be in res, and thanks to the Beeld (and therefore certain bloggers) misconception, I can no longer take part in traditions of a residence. Needless to say that these 3 months of res life, was, and will be the best time of my life.

  • Johan Taljaard (14012252)

    My opinie is dat die hele situasie rakende die Potchefstroom-debakel, uitverband uit geruk is.

    Toegegee, die studente in die bepaalde video gee die “Sieg Heil” saluut vir ‘n breukdeel van ‘n sekonde (niemand ontken dit nie), maar dit is egter waansinnig om te argumenteer dat die studente hul vereenselwig met die waarde van die destydse Nazi-beweging, deur slegs ‘n “koshuis-groet” te doen.

    Ek het begrip vir individue wat verafsku word deur die feit dat die “Sieg Heil” saluut vandag steeds gebruik word. Die Nazi-regime was verskriklik gewees en die feit dat miljoene mense vermoor en gemartel was, is onvergeeflik.

    Die konteks waarin die insident by Potchefstroom egter plaasgevind het en die konteks waarin dit in die media uitgebeeld word, verskil egter drasties.

    Hierdie hele debakel getuig van een feit: Ons as die publiek en selfs die media is te vinnig om te oordeel as dit kom by gebeurtenisse in ons land.
    Ja, ons het die reg om ons opinie uit te spreek, maar ons het beslis nie die reg om te verklaar dat iets onomwonde die geval is nie…
    Elke situasie moet in sy eie lig beoordeel word en ons moet waak om nie te vinnig tot ons eie gevolgtrekkings te kom nie.

    In terme van dit in selfs mnr. De Vos skuldig. As hy die hele video op die internet gaan kyk het en nie slegs op ‘n enkele foto sy gevolgtrekking gebaseer het nie, sou dit nie nodig gewees het vir hom om bv. aan te voer dat kospraktyke tot indoktrinasie en selfs die “vernietiging van die vry denkende individu” lei nie.

    Wag liewers eers tot die onafhanklike ondersoekspan terugrapporteer op die 22ste Mei voordat jy ‘n bepaalde gevolgtrekking maak.

    (Uitspraak voorbehou …)

  • Klara V

    In my opinion, initiations at South African Universities are outdated and part of old traditional practices, expressed by Pierre de Vos as being a ‘nostalgic yearning for the “good old days” of Afrikaner Nationalism and Apartheid.’ I do agree with Pierre de Vos that, allowing any form of “initiation” of first year students at a University is a sign that the ‘institution has embraced educational mediocrity (in the broadest sense) in the name of loyalty to the group and in the name of tradition.’ While researching the topic more in-depthly, I had discovered that The Department of Higher Education and Training has noted its concern with the report on orientation activities at the North West University. The university management has indicated that these pictures are from only some scenes out of a longer video ‘singing a greeting to their primaria’ which was taken out of context and what appears to be a Nazi-style salute is not that at all. However
    in the Departments’ view, ‘Such practices are not at all innocent and can only be characterised as unacceptable practices where the use of gestures associated with Nazism are shunned upon throughout the world and are relics of a time which symbolised oppression, persecution and some of the worst atrocities committed in human history.’ When watching the video of the actual so called ‘initiation dance’, or rather ‘greeting to their primaria’, I do feel that the
    media has taken the situation totally out of context. Although I am against Nazism and initiation at South African Universities, I do still feel that the first years of one of the girl residences were simply doing a dance, compulsory to their staying in residence. While watching the dance, the salute was at the end and was simply in my opinion another dance movement to a string of various songs all compiled into one performance. This can be seen on
    It did not seem to be a deliberate expression of Nazism at all. There are much worse initiation practices on campuses across South Africa, especially with regards to sports teams and their initiations. Shouldn’t we rather focus less on such small instances and instead look at the bigger picture regarding initiations?

  • B Human

    This whole thing has been blown out of proportion. Yes, the “Sieg Heil” is strongly associated with Nazi Germany, and in the picture, one could certainly say that a bunch of university students are pledging their allegiance to Adolf Hitler, but that’s where the woderful thing called context comes into play.

    Newspapers and blogs like these, love taking things out of context. As a university student, I find nothing wrong with the practise of innocent song and dance. It helps first years to bond with their fellow res students. When you’re thrown into something so drastically different from what you’re used to, a little humiliation is a good ice breaker.

    Are we going to analyse every tiny symbol to death now?

  • JA1101

    In my opinion… I do not see this song/performance as hate crime towards Jews, Gays or Lesbians. I see this a attempt to form bonds within the “res society or culture” at a University. Some may argue that initiation and rituals at universities are out dated and uncalled for in our modern society, but when taking a closer look at our society there are still a lot of initiation and rituals present in some cultures in our society. What about them? Are they not too guilty of forcing down group thinking and banishing individualism. They will argue their plot that rituals and initiation culture is crucial to them, but then isn’t initiation and a feeling of one and unity crucial at a university. I feel what applies to one has to apply to others.

  • Paige Courtney

    ‘This imposition of conformity’ (i.e. requiring students to give the Nazi Sieg Heil salute) ‘is not to be squared with encouraging independent thought’ (i.e. free speech) ‘at an academic institution’.

    Free speech is enshrined in the South African Constitution. However, this constitutional right is largely under threat as a result of the South African Protection of State Information Bill – currently awaiting ratification by State President Zuma. Should this Act be passed into law, South Africans will join the ranks of repressed and silenced societies. (examples: Turkey, Zimbabwe, Russia, North Korea, China) governed by autocratic regimes.
    Why do politicians tinker and interfere with the independent rights of enlightened, clear-thinking people?
    Group-think and conformity stifles and negates individual flexibility of thought.
    Clearly, Sieg Heil salutes on the campus of Northwest University are wrongly justified and explained away as ‘initiation’ rites. However, these salutes have the result of aligning with and condoning the butchering of 6 million innocent people during the Second World War.
    Further, this practice falls into the category of bigoted hate speech and actions (i.e. beyond the accepted norms of free speech and thought), and should immediately be curtailed by South Africa’s independent judiciary.

  • Paige Courtney

    ‘This imposition of conformity’ (i.e. requiring students to give the Nazi Sieg Heil salute) ‘is not to be squared with encouraging independent thought’ (i.e. free speech) ‘at an academic institution’.

    Free speech is enshrined in the South African Constitution. However, this constitutional right is largely under threat as a result of the South African Protection of State Information Bill – currently awaiting ratification by State President Zuma. Should this Act be passed into law, South Africans will join the ranks of repressed and silenced societies. (examples: Turkey, Zimbabwe, Russia, North Korea, China) governed by autocratic regimes.
    Why do politicians tinker and interfere with the independent rights of enlightened, clear-thinking people?
    Group-think and conformity stifles and negates individual flexibility of thought.
    Clearly, Sieg Heil salutes on the campus of Northwest University are wrongly justified and explained away as ‘initiation’ rites. However, these salutes have the result of aligning with and condoning the butchering of 6 million innocent people during the Second World War.
    Further, this practice falls into the category of bigoted hate speech and actions (i.e. beyond the accepted norms of free speech and thought), and should immediately be curtailed by South Africa’s independent judiciary.

  • C.J. Joubert

    For the most part I agree with your view point about what happened at the Potchefstroom campus of North West University earlier this year but I can’t emphatically say that I am against initiation practices as a whole.

    University is a place where individuality and free individual thinking is, or should, be endorsed and promoted. To hinder such personal development would be to hinder the intellectual progression of the nation. I do however feel that there is a point to the tradition. In the context of hostels and residences for students, initiation aims to welcome first years into the ‘club’ as it were, to make them feel part of something bigger than themselves. I strongly believe that these initiation practices should still respect the students’ inherent dignity as well as the inherent dignity of others and respect their freedom to decline participation. Initiation at a school level for the grade 8s (and in some cases grade 7s) coming into the high school is a fundamental part of welcoming them to the school as well as giving them perspective on where they stand in the greater working of the school.

    That said, what happened at North West University is not a display of welcoming the first years. This is a showcase of the ignorance or possibly the malice of senior students of Potchefstroom. I think it is unacceptable to defend the practice (which, as said by you, has been a tradition for years) stating that the students did not know what the gesture means. It would be extraordinary to have received a substantial high school education and not know about the Nazi regime of pre 1945 Europe. Attaining such a level of ignorance is surely no mean feat.

    The ‘Sieg Heil’ salute literally means ‘Hail [to] Victory’ which, out of context, could be perceived to be a touching precognition of success in their studies. However, such a perception cannot be entertained due to the deeply correlative (or even mutualistic) connection of this gesture to the Holocaust extermination. I have watched the YouTube video of the dance into which the salute is incorporated and I still agree that the use of the gesture (for any purpose) is to incite disregard for the dignity of others; albeit in this case a facetious display of ‘first year fun’ orchestrated by senior students of the university. Refusal to participate could have presumably resulted in the student being alienated from ‘the group’.

    I am a student at the University of Pretoria. This is not to say that I am merely putting down the actions of the Potchefstroom students in a bid to higher the perceptions of my own university. TUKS in its capacity as a university doesn’t initiate first year students. We do however have an ‘Orientation Week’ in which we were (formally) welcomed to the University and integrated into its working without being forced to participate in derogatory actions. Although having to ‘collectively struggle’ through something, could have made it easier for some first years to make friends. But, then again, that’s what the first year camp is for.


  • Rainier Rademan (11030870)

    I agree with Pierre concerning his thoughts on conformity and group pressure. In the context of a university or educational body, it is unwise to constantly enforce initiation programmes at student residences, or houses. Yes, it does create room to interact socially and engage with peers, but it also forces students to conform to ideals set forth by previous generations. If these ideals are not sound, then a promulgation of the wrong morals will be set forth in future generations. Students at universities will become the future minds of our country, and I believe that it is therefore of vital importance to ensure that positive, enriching orientation programmes are followed. Programmes that will encourage individuality, freedom of expression, but also respect and dignity. Education is powerful, and as Pierre mentioned, dangerous if used incorrectly. And thus, I believe, that “initiation” in the sense that we have all grown to know, can in no way foster a nurturing society, but rather a society focused on group ideals, ideals for mediocrity and collectivism. This can in no way, mean a positive outcome for future generations.

  • 14029163

    I strongly feel that initiation at any university or institution is tradition and is all part of the experience starting out at a new place. Initiation in a controlled environment is not in any way unhealthy unless taken too far and the line between showing respect towards elders is crossed and unfair duties are forced upon younger students to be done. However
    in this case, I personally feel that the senior students making first year
    students do this has no bad intention whatsoever and was definitely not an act done to offend or disrespect anyone or to cause any controversy. The media as always, has totally blown things out of proportion and made something that meant no harm to be something it isn’t.

    Yes it is evident that the Sleig Heil salute was used but
    it was not used at any point in the same context when Nazi Germans did it in association with killing Jews, gays and lesbians like in the time of the holocaust.

    The point I am making is that the context in which the students of
    Potchefstroom did the salute had nothing to do with the incidents of the past. People really need to stop over analyzing every bit of information they read and rather see the innocence in the nature of many incidents such as this.

    Initiation may be old fashioned and outdated but I am pretty sure these seniors had no aim to make it into the news for this crimeless doing.

  • 14037612

    I think at any university, initiation is important and is part of the university experience of a first year as a whole. With saying this, initiation is accepted to a certain extent and I do believe that it can be taken too far. However, I do not believe that in this case, the senior students of the Potchefstroom university meant any harm or offense to anyone of Jewish origin, gay men or lesbian women. They have also given no reason for anybody to believe that they intended any harm. It is normal for senior students to show authority and I do think that they could have chosen a better way to display their authority but I still think that the first year students are able to be different and have different thoughts and not just “belong to the larger group”. I also this that the way the media has portrayed this initiation act has blown the entire situation out of proportion. The “Sieg Heil” salute was a major issue during the Second World War and we have all lived past that terrible time. So, we should look forward to the bright future for the first year Potchefstroom students rather than comparing them to a Nazi Party.

  • J.M Makhubela

    u14063442: Initiation at univeristities should be banned. Students are not the same, therefore, making them do something that is going to humiliating in front of thousands of other students, can be unbearable for others. The timid ones will mostly be the victims and left vulnerable. Initiation can also creation low self esteem on other students which can have a bad influence on their academic life; this is because they will be expected to live in a certain tradition which is different from theirs. One may also argue that it is discrimination of the first year students from the rest of the students. At the universities, students should feel safe, empowered and motivated to do what they came for, nothing more, nothing less.

  • Martin 13110668

    Initiation is a tradition carried out throughout the century by high schools and universities , symbolising acceptance into a certain group or society.

    Initiation was a way for students to learn responsibility to be familiarised with the basic traditions of university life and as a group to stand strong and so forming a close family. Basically just to have fun and of course believed by all seniors a bit of humiliation.

    But there is a fine line between humiliation and breaking a person morally and physically down. Throughout the years seniors lost the sight of the true meaning of initiation and the pride that comes with this tradition.

    Initiation has a meaning and purpose but students took advantage of this idea and made something that was harmless and meaningful,
    downgrading and meaningless.

    By making the “Siege Heil” salute, was morally wrong and
    send out a misunderstood meaning and bad image. This might not have been the student’s intention but not all the blame can be placed on the students. The university has as much to answer for, it is their responsibility to oversee the activities and actions of their students and thus it is partly their fault for it to go on for so long without putting a stop to this mediocre behaviour.

    If bad initiation cannot be controlled, I don’t see the purpose of it continuing and in my opinion that there should be an end to this downgrade able form of initiation.

  • 14028817

    There are many events in the past that remain sensitive
    areas in our history to this day. These events should be taken into consideration
    and steps should be taken to avoid referring to them, with the goal to avoid
    any possible offence towards parties who have possibly been affected by these
    events in the past.

    There is absolutely nothing wrong with the upholding of tradition
    and initiations within establishments that have proved to be rich in them. Unfortunately,
    these traditions have been misused and transformed into tools for forcing one’s
    power against other vulnerable parties. To put it plain and simple, initiation
    has become but a word to justify blatant bullying.

    The seniors of this establishment are expected to have wiser
    reasoning and to have known better. There are many other forms of initiation
    that aren’t harmful and/offensive to anyone. Why can’t they be implemented?

  • Ewald 14092418

    In my opinie word die hele sogenaamde Nazi Siege Heil” deur die media uit verband geruk en vooroordeling is aan die orde van die dag .Eerstens moet daar onderskeid getref word tussen koshuise en die universiteit .Die koshuis verskaf huisvesting aan studente terwyl die universiteit se primêre doelstelling is om onderrig op ‘n tersiêre vlak te voorsien in die hoop om ‘n student tot ‘n graad of minstens tot ‘n diploma te lei .
    Mnr. De Vos baseer sy gevolgtrekking bloot op ‘n kort greep vanuit vidio materiaal waarin die sogenaamde Nazi saluut ter verskyning kom en kyk dus nie na die beeldmateriaal as ‘n geheel nie .In die beeldmateriaal blyk dit duidelik dat die saluut deel vorm van ‘n uitgebreide danspassie wat deel vorm van die betrokke koshuis se geesvang poging onder die eerstejaars
    ‘n Koshuis se hart en siel lê opgesluit in die gees van sy inwoners.Suid-Afrikaners is immers bekend vir hulle humor,kyk maar net na die gereelde uitbeeldings deur prentjiekunstenaars soos Niel van Vuuren en Jonathan Shapiro waarin daar gereeld spot gedryf word met aktuele kwessies sonder enige negatiewe konnotasies.

    In my opinie is die “Sieg Heil” bloot ‘n spanbou en geesvang aktiwiteit met geen konnotasie of belediging met die Jode wat onder Adolf Hitler vermoor is nie.

    Die media en Mnr. De Vos is met alle respek heeltemaal te vinnig om te oordeel aan die hand van ‘n vidiogreep sonder om na die beeldmateriaal as ‘n geheel te kyk .Dus word die groter prentjie nie raakgesien nie ,maar eerder ‘n direkte verbintenis wat volstrek word met Hitler en die Nazis
    Die koshuis lewe kweek broederskap onder sy inwoners en enige koshuisbrak sal daarvan getuig ,maar individialisme en eie denke word behou deur die ewige streef na volmaaktheid onder die inwoners aangesien niemand eenders is nie en dus dra die stelling dat indoktrinasie plaasvind plaasvind tydens inisiasie nie water nie

  • 14047340

    Initiation happens in many areas of different institutions. Most of the time initiation is fun and harmless and it is to become a member of a varsity res or sports team. I feel it is incorrect to say that, by allowing the members of that university to take part in or hold initiations, makes the university “educationally mediocrity”. Initiation can make one feel fully part of something new and fit in, which is what most people want.
    However, the salute that was performed by first years which makes one think of the World War 2 and the terrible things that occurred, it is a highly sensitive topic and can most definitely make people feel uncomfortable or offended. It can be seen as sensitive as South Africa has its own history of discrimination and unfair racial abuse.
    In my opinion, I do not think that they were making them do it to make an underlying point of killing, racial discrimination or discrimination against sexual orientation and most of those first years would not have gone into a deeper meaning.
    W should however think of our actions before we do them, but it was merely a joke to make them show that they are in charge in a symbolic way.

  • u14036763

    I feel that they did this not to be racist or prejudice towards any group of people, however it does show their ignorance of not only the past but also of the consequences that their action could lead to. I also feel that initiation has no place in our country as it makes people feel inferior and goes against our constitution

  • Maanda 13045092

    Initiation essentially demands respect and in most cases this respect is being demanded in a way that is uncomfortable and not out of an individuals (first years) will. In this case it is seems quite clear that the ‘leaders’ were not aware of the meaning of the salutation that they instructed the first years to do and even if they did they clearly didn’t realize how notorious the salutation is globally.

    The basis of this article is to just find fault in the whole initiation program and the salutation just happened to be the one that built up that basis.

    In my opinion and experience initiation is a tradition that does indeed bring a group together, these are activities that create loyalty among the group and unity in most cases. Initiation should remain harmless and fun and to no degree should it be discriminating nor demeaning to any individual.

  • Dian Oosthuizen

    As ‘n mens wil sal jy kan fout vind in enige iets. “Die Beeld-redakteur gebruik die belaglike bewering dat die Puk ‘n Nazi-kultuur bedryf as ‘n verskoning om Afrikaans op die Potch-kampus te probeer nek
    omdraai.” Verwys na Sunè van Heerden “ so die enigste kampus waar Afrikaans as akademiese taal nog veilig is te verengels.” Was dit rerig wat die Beeld – redakteur bedoel?

    Dit was maar net ‘n teken, niemand daar het gedink aan Hitler nie. “simpel studentesalute wat niks met Hitler te doen het nie” verwys na Buys. Hierdie universiteit doen dit al jare lank hoekom is daar nou skielik ‘n probleem. Dis maar net tradisie, gee jou kultuur en leer jou om saam te staan. Wit of swart dit maak nie saak nie. Almal het saam gestaan en sing. Hulle maak nou rerig ‘n berg van ‘n miershoop.

    Daar is belangriker dinge om oor te skryf as dit. Kyk wat in ons land aangaan armoede word nie minder nie, werkloosheid vermeerder. Dan skryf hulle oor sulke goed ‘n klomp studente wat saam gaan deur die ontgroening. Aan die einde van die ontgroening is hulle maats of het hulle iets nuuts oor hulself geleer.

    Die Nazi-teken regtig? ekstra inligting gekry.

  • Wendy Mamabolo (13150822)

    In my view university initiation should about welcoming the first years to varsity life in a sense that it should be a character building activity,aimed at uniting them, making the transition from high school to a higher level less overwhelming and scary but at the same time giving them a bit of a tough time so that they may develop thick skins to survive and thrive in this crude and challenging environment that is varsity.

    However, I feel like degrading and demeaning activities like those that these Pukke from North West University were subjected to are a pure abuse of power from the authoritive figures at this varsity,who should certainly know better and this is why I feel like maybe initiation should be down-scaled and maybe even banned from varsities like North West that clearly do not know where to draw the line.

  • 14324009

    The use of the ‘Sieg Heil’ was certainly not indented to be in any way disrespectful to the unfortunate events that occurred in WW2, or to any parties that were harmed during that time. It was only to allow the first year student that were new to the university and the res that they joined, to further strengthen their bond with their fellow first years, as well as with their res. In a way this ‘Sieg Heil’ was innocently used to unify the students and show a form of respect to the res elders.

    It was only as said a ‘joke’, and shouldn’t have been taken up so seriously as it has been a way that many a res or school or any place where initiation had taken place to show a sign of respect to their elders and unify that group as one. The only reason that this specific matter has gotten so much attention is because of the fact that the Beeld had published it on their front page.Not because it had offended a person or a party involved.

  • Shrivar Chendip

    Shrivar Chendip
    This article, in my opinion divulges into how initiation is becoming a cult and gaining a reputation as well as the fact of how a higher education institution can embrace certain mediocre social procedures. In my opinion initiation is a thing of the past, as respect is not forced upon an individual but rather earned and fostered. Initiation especially with a higher education facility can hinder an individual growth either socially or academically due to the impact of initiations most greatest threat: Fear.
    This was evident in the World Wars, whereby mass extinctions of innocent people were conducted under a single person idea being distributed through the society by fear. Back then this brought a society together but now its not needed.
    In my opinion initiation is not needed as an adhesive for society, what is needed is common respect and allowing individuals to venture out and decided for themselves what to do, and how to it. As freedom of expression and thought is the key to defining ourselves.

  • M. Makhubedu 14059712

    I agree that the idea of initiation itself could be group-
    thinking because one is basically mistreated in order to belong, to learn the lifestyle of the place (its culture, traditions, ideologies) andin order to be considered an official member. I do agree with a number of things mentioned in the article however I highly doubt that the seniors at the university who ran the initiation process had any intentions of going as far as Nazi – Germany and its practices.

    Initiation should be banned though. It is abused and has been taken to a whole new unnecessary level. It not only has less of a purpose now but also has negative effects on the people who are forced to do it. In the article is it mentioned that the first years were not forced to do it however as a first year who went through an initation process at Res I was never forced to do anything but if I ever decided that I did not what to do something I was looked down upon, almost as if I am not capable or I am not loyal to the residence. Initiation has a way
    of making someone feel less of a person than they are, it is a way to demand respect but respect is earned rather than demanded.

  • Tarie 14271002

    I do not agree with initiation of first years into varsity res, being made to sing silly songs and take part in activities that you would rather not take part in does not in anyway coincide with adulthood and freedom. i do not agree however that constitutes ‘groupthink’ because as adults university students should be able to know where they stand and stick to that. in terms of the use of the seig heil sign as part of a dance routine I believe that it is a clear example of how an action considered as “plain fun” can be offensive or be taken in a negative light by observers.


    Initiation at university residence can be tiring,boring, for some students it may seem as a waste of time.Initiation is a culture that has been practiced for ages and ages in different university residences.This is a part where students are taught how to behave,respecting your senior etc.
    Even though students complain about being initiated they learn a lot of things that they could apply in their daily lives,for example Respecting and accepting each others differences and learning the importance of team work.
    My point is that initiation helps first year students to adapt and learn the ways of their new home. First year students may be mistreated by their seniors but I think its part of the fun of being in res and they will be doing the same thing to those who will be coming after them.

  • u14194466

    I agree with you.I also think that the is nothing wrong with initiation done in university residence.Its all part of the experience and its a good way to adapt to the new environment. It is also fun and can make students feel welcomed and excepted. The media jumped into conclusion when analyzing this matter.The seniors intentions was not to cause violence of any sort,it could be that they didn’t even know that what they were doing would encourage violent acts..

  • 13049802

    Inistiation is part of res life and in a way will always be. Initiation is part of growing up. You learn new things about yourself and other people , new things about different cultures. Its a family that grow together. I think that the things that the seniors make the first years do all has a purpose to gain respect for elders. Not only do you gain respect but you learn how to respect other people.

    In all honesty , I think using a salute like the “sleig heil” is wrong towards students as maybe it can be in someones family history and personally offend them. Yes there should be greetings but not something that can offend anyone even if we are living in SA. I am most defnintly not against the idea of initiation , I just don’t think it is right to mix it with world history that caused so many pain and sadness. I dont think that the Seniors meant something by the salute but can still have a negatvie effect on the group of first years.

    Although they didnt mean anything by the salute , the should’ve thought about the consequences.

  • 13038185

    while reading this post i am really at two minds when it comes to the matter of initiation. on the one hand i completely agree with initiation as i believe that traditions are important to be upheld as they promote unity and strength among individuals, initiation also creates a sense on belonging in the minds of first years who lets face it when coming into the new world of higher education the majority feel lost and scared and i believe initiation in a way helps they to find their footing by feeling like they belong. initiation has been practiced probably since the birth of the institution, why take it away, if everyone else has had to do it what makes the class of 2014 so special that they are suddenly made out to be victims of some sort of oppression? i think its just people trying to make an issue out of nothing. however i might contradict myself here but i can’t help but thinking that the points made above are valid that perhaps it is stripping the learners of their individuality and taking their voice away to be unique. so perhaps it does oppress and perhaps it doesn’t in my opinion the press should just leave the universities alone and not make issues out of things that aren’t there. – peace

  • Michael Jonathan Donno

    What everybody seems to forget, is that a student has the CHOICE to enter into a residence or not. And fundamentally, joining a res house is for the purpose of enhanced interaction with others in order to meet new people and to potentially create life long friendships that will venture beyond the walls of the university in which that student is a part of.
    Personally, i am part of a res in my own university, and what a privilege it is! As i have pointed out, i have been able to make new relationships with new people and the term “initiation” certainly seems inapplicable regarding this content. All residences have leaders of the res. It is their job to guide new residents and yes, to remove them from their comfort zones thus enhancing the full purpose, that being, mutual awkwardness allowing for interaction between students. People need not look for a fire when there isn’t any smoke to indicate that there might be one. Keep that in mind and look for the fun and INNOCENCE in this dance routine.

  • Rudolf Swanepoel (14031630)

    What value does tradition and conformity even bring to the learning
    experience? Individuals enrol at institutions of higher learning to ultimately obtain an education. Tradition and conformity stand in stark contrast to the ideals of education and learning. Tradition stands for following and education stands for finding. Initiation rituals at universities are not only unnecessary and unimportant but are also detrimental to the overall experience of learning.
    If initiation rituals formed a vital part of the university life, then why restrict it to only a minority of the students? i.e. students in residences and not the entire university including day students. If initiation really had its place then I’m sure that it wouldn’t be restricted.

    How can a student be forced to partake in senseless rituals?
    What happened to the rights bestowed upon us in Section 18 of the Constitution? The right to association includes the right of a person to join or leave a group of their own choosing yet for some reason these groups still are full. The reason for this is the lack of critical thinking that comes hand in hand with conformity. In this case ignorance is not bliss. Most of these students do not question the ridiculous rituals that they are expected to take part in. They do not once
    stop to think about how these rituals are of any benefit to their ultimate goal of obtaining a degree. Mindlessly following the crowd is not going to shape the influential leaders that are much needed in this country of ours. Tradition does not allow for the asking of questions and once we stop asking questions, we stop learning. Therefore I must agree with Mr Pierre De Vos.

  • Kyra South (14022304)

    Being a first year student myself at a perhaps slightly more conservative university, I can see where Mr De Vos is coming from. University, especially first year, is supposed to be a time to explore the world, who you are, and what you want from your life. First year “initiation” can be a good and a bad thing. If one is in res (for example) and undergoes initiation, it can be a place where solid new friendships are formed. “Group think” is also not necessarily a bad skill to learn as many of us will have to work in groups of people in our respective jobs one day where thinking as one unit may be crucial. But on the flip side, initiation like South Africa has just seen at The University of the North-West could conjure up old “extremist” thoughts in a young person that could have potentially disastrous consequences if paired with the wrong individual or a person who may have “extremist” tendencies. After all, young first year students are more susceptible to older students’ influences due to the fact that not many of them have the privilege of being completely comfortable in who they are just yet. This is where “group think” can become dangerous and “individualism” completely overlooked due to a young person’s natural desire to just fit in. Considering the salute “hate speech” may be, in my opinion, a little harsh, but it could encourage young people to become less open minded about global issues. An example of this would be that students adopt a more conservative view regarding gay men and lesbian women which could lead to increased personal bias and discrimination against these groups in the future. Tradition and initiation are good things, especially when one considers that, done correctly, friendships are formed and one learns that one needs to treat one’s elders and peers with respect and not the arrogance that is characteristic of many newly matriculated students. But when tradition and initiation are taken too far then the world’s shift to a more “liberal” society is at risk of being compromised.

  • Tahlita Vanwyk

    Why did no student at that university question this “symbol”? I would have expected that some feisty first year student, with moral values and respect for others, would challenge the seniors on this. It is embarrassing for a university to defend these actions of students that did not consider the bigger picture when they enforced this. Universities have minimum academic criteria and I am startled to think that the intellectually privileged senior students could envisage any positive outcome by promoting conformity in such a way. The apathy of most students is worrying. How can we build this country with young people that are inconsiderate, irresponsible and unsympathetic to the world’s history?

  • 14004942

    Personally, I don’t think that initiation in itself is a bad thing. By using initiation, a group or institution are welcoming the group of new members, showing them the ropes and instilling in them a sense of responsibility, respect and pride.

    Yes, it might be teaching the members to “groupthink” with regards to the res: how much they love the res, what they would do to stick up for it and, to a degree, how they feel about it, but that has got nothing to do with how the members think and interact in class and at the actual institution or university.

    The students have still got free reign to think critically and independently at university and question and debate in class. Just because one is made to do or say certain things for their institution, this does not mean that their learning abilities are in any way hindered.

    With regards to the “Sieg Heil” on the Potchefstroom campus of the Northwest University I do not think that anything harmful or discriminatory was meant by the move. It was a simple dance move, not used with any intention of excluding or discriminating against any particular group of people. As a member of the generation born and raised when the country was already moving towards an equal society, I know that our generation does not care very much about skin colour or background, but more the way in which we treat each other.

  • carol chiloane 13156579

    As a university student, it is very difficult for me to view initiation as enslaving the minds of the these first years to group thinking and not being able to challenge authority or an idea that may go against everything you know. What I can say about initiation in my own context considering that I have gone through it is that, it made me open to others and how others think and gave me an opportunity to see if i could think for myself within a group setting. By being in university, one is exposed to many ideas and opinions and this peer pressure so to speak challenges one to really prove themselves individual of group thought. In the context of the Potchefstroom University, initiation went from being an environment where one could build character, be open to other ideas and being able to go against the grain where one needed to, to not only insulting the intelligence of these students but undermining and disregarding one of the most devastating tragedy of our time. If initiation is becoming a platform for hate speech, then it should be done away with but only in that situation. Initiation for me was a test of my character, how I could work with others in sharing ideas and thoughts and how I could as an individual in a group then decide for myself

  • u14277876

    As a first year student, my opinion is that initiation is an effective way of welcoming and introducing first year students to university life. It builds a culture and a bond between students, and shows one’s dedication and belongingness to the university. It is one experience that a lot of students do not have the privilege of experiencing. Initiation creates memories that will last a life time, even though it might at times be hard on one. As for the “Seig Heil” salute, which literally means ” Hail to Victory, most certainly refers to students who want to be victorious in sports, achieving academic goals etc. This is part of team spirit, and no harm was done during these events, therefore one is not to worry.

  • Stefan Korterink

    I do believe this is a case of unjustifiable abuse of authority over first years but at the same time, the publicity received by this practice has to my dismay painted horrible picture of initiation in residences of tertiary institutions in general, and to make the assessment that initiation in all its forms in universities is outdated and should be removed is wrong.

    As first year student at a residence currently in the middle of initiation I can say with confidence that initiation is not a tool used to breed hatred and demote individuality. Yes there are cases (like the above) that see the whole practice going wrong, but my experience and from what i have observed elsewhere, initiation can be used as a tool for first years to grow accustom to the happenings, traditions and history of the residence, at the same time promoting friendship and unity from senior levels right down to the first years.

    Finding yourself in a new town as a first year, with the daunting challenge of growing familiar with university life and meeting new people can be horribly intimidating. Initiation, if done correctly, can bring about a sense of belonging whilst at the same time celebrating individuality. At my residence, initiation is done strictly on voluntary basis and those who choose not to take part are treated with just as much respect as those who do.

    It is for the above reasons that i find it sad to see that the popular response to the Potchefstroom incident is that all forms of initiation is wrong and should be done away with in our countries universities. One, in my opinion must first sit down and have a good look at what initiation aims to achieve in general before writing off the practice completely.

  • Zani Trefz 13222661

    My opinion is that the initiation is an effective way of welcoming and introducing first year students to life at the university. It really builds a culture and a bond between students. Yes, it might force the students to “groupthink” but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I also believe that students are very vulnerable at the age of 18 and will do anything they are told to do without thinking or questioning it. Always remember that no harm was meant by doing the “Seig Heil” salute but rather see it as a bunch of students making an innocent joke.

  • Mikhail Meyer

    First of all, “Words” can in no way be communicated through gestures, therefore saying the “Sieg Heil” gesture amount to hate speech is extremely inaccurate. When reading the Constitution of South Africa, one should read it as it is put out. One cannot read another’s actions as words, as you did. Secondly, you mention learning more from fellow students who are different from you. That is mostly the purpose of initiation, to create a bond with others (despite their race, religion, sex etc.) and to ensure you show respect to everyone around you. To state that only mediocre universities still have hostels that take part in initiation is fairly inaccurate. By saying THAT, you immediately imply that universities such as the University of Pretoria and the University of Stellenbosch are mediocre because they also have hostels that take part in initiations, when in reality they are recognised as one of the top 500 universities in the world. Besides, why do you keep referring to the “Salute” gesture, as the “Sieg Heil”. Sure Hitler used the salute, but even an antagonist like him used it as a method for showing respect to one another (I am in no way saying what he did was right). This article is extremely biased, written by a person, that was clearily never part of a group such as a hostel, that criticises things he know nothing about.

  • 14030650

    Regardless of whether the salutes and gestures were harmless or not “Everyone has inherent dignity and the right to have their dignity respected and protected”. I strongly doubt that there existed any form of racism as all students had to participate in the process regardless of their race, forcing students to respect their seniors overthrows the purpose of orientation. I feel it is unacceptable for students to be victimized, humiliated or degraded. They need to feel secure and safe in their new environment.

  • 14030650

    Regardless of whether the salutes and gestures were harmless or not “Everyone has inherent dignity and the right to have their dignity respected and protected.” I strongly doubt that there existed any form of racism as all students had to participate in the process regardless of their race, forcing students to respect their seniors overthrows the purpose orientation. I feel it is unacceptable for students to be victimized, humiliated, degraded. They need to feel secure and safe in their new environment.

  • 11017237

    There are definitely some valid points in this article, but they are completely overpowered by the very strongly and over expressed opinions that are presented throughout. I find it highly offensive that a University can be judged on its merit solely because it allows initiation or orientation processes as they are now called. I agree that in the past initiation has been taken too far, but many measures have been put in place to assure that this process accomplishes its initial goal, to involve the new students into the University. To remove this process completely will leave first years alone, intimidated and unprepared in my opinion. How is that the attitude cultivated from a good University. The salute is definitely not a pleasant sight, but one must ask oneself what was the context in which it occurred? To blindly assume that the raising of ones arm in a group now places us in the company Nazi fanatics is a little extreme. I feel that the correct course of action would have been to investigate why the students had been instructed to do this; express the fact that this is inappropriate, sometimes students tend to act in this manner, and insist that the movement be changed. It could even have go so far as a pubic apology from the University. To suddenly accuse the University of longing for the apartheid regime; that group-think is imposed on the students and that the are all ignorant is in my opinion probably more applicable to the article that the subjects of this article.

  • Tanya Botha

    The fact that the university claims that they had no knowledge about the significance behind the salute like that is disgusting but the real issue at hand is the fact that initiation has no real place in modern day South Africa The whole idea of initiation is to break down a group of individuals so that these people can be made into a group
    with standard ideas and set norms, thus placing no value on independent thought and critical thinking.

    By enforcing a group mentality or a set of ideas on a group it enables the authority figure to easily control them as the parameters or limits for their thought process has been laid down. People, whose ideas and norms automatically fit into those parameters probably don`t see a problem with initiation but it is when you don`t conform to these ideas that you start questioning the reasoning behind initiation.
    Individuals with ideas different to that of a group are often labelled disobedient and branded an outcast because of their alternative viewpoints

    “This imposition of conformity is not to be squared with encouraging independent thought at an academic institution. After all, education – at its very best – is dangerous: it makes people question authority and conventional wisdom and allows them to start thinking for
    themselves, unfettered by the shackles of group pressure” I think Pierre de Vos sums it up perfectly.

    Because before 1994, the church and government played a major role in making the majority of white Afrikaans people believe in something that is now proven to be untrue. Thus one of the most valuable things we gained from democracy is the right to independent and critical thought. In today`s time we have the responsibility investigating an issue and forming our own conclusion, we can no longer follow the group.

  • Rosina Chokwe

    It would be naive of us to assume that these students had an intention to spread hate and the messages affiliated with the ‘sieg heil’ sign. Group solidarity helps people find their feet, in a new environment. The sign is also associated with unquestioned loyalty and that is what the students intended.

    On the other hand, it is disappointing how ignorant and insensitive people are in terms of the holocaust. Especially coming from students who are from a country with a past that is not too different from that of Germany.

    I do not completely agree with the idea that people are incapable of being themselves inside of a group. In fact, it is such groups which give an opportunity for different people to meet and interact because they otherwise wouldn’t have, due to the barriers hidden in their differences.

    Yes to a certain extent, it does limit individuality but it is only temporary. On the bright side, such groups create unbreakable trust among people, which is something a vulnerable first year student might be yearning for. It is not like these students are forced to participate in these activities, they choose to do so.

  • Jesse

    Ek dink die studente van die Puk wat die ‘heil’ teken maak dit is ‘n onskuldige uitbeelding en dit laat die studente voel hulle is deel van iets groters, veral omdat hulle eerste jaar is en nuut. Maar ek verstaan ook dat die uitbeelding van die teken oneties is omdat dit ‘n doker tydperk in die wereld se geskiedenis verteenwoordig en sommige Suid-Afrikaners kan dalk voel dat verwys na ons eie apartheids era in SA. Maar dis tyd om oor apartheid te kom, sommige mense ry daai trein bietjie te lank.

  • Brandan Grobbelaar 14054932

    In the “Promotion of Equality and the Prevention of Unfair Discrimination Act 4 of 2000” I can not find a single article that stipulates that tradision of groups (racial, school ect.) can be seen as discriminating. If there is no clear intention of discrimination how can you say initiation, and tradision, can cause a person to become narrow minded, or as you put it “Initiation is the handmaiden of ‘groupthink’ and the enemy of real an critical thought, reflection and deep learning” this is simply not true. In my opinion this article and the whole “Sieg Hail” element is blown out of proportion.

  • TarienvanDyk(u14007020)

    Ek wat self ‘n eerstejaarstudent is en ook “onthef” word voel die mense maak ‘n groot opskop oor iets wat nie eers so ernstig is nie. Die kinders by die Universiteit het tradisies wat al jare trug begin het. Hoekom is dit nou eweskielik so groot problem. Dit was ‘n onskuldige grap. Die kinders weet wie Hitler was en wat hy gedoen het en ek weet vir ‘n feit almal stem saam dat dit verkeerd was. Dit is nie asof die universiteit beplan om al die ander universiteite dood te maak soos wat Hitler al die mense wat nie soos hulle was doodgemaak het nie. Ontheffing gaan oor simpel wees en oor simpel goed doen om deel te word van die gemeenskap. Ja om dinge soos hierdie teken te wys is dalk bietjie teveel, maar hoekom is ons so senstief oor iets wat so lank trug gebeur het?

  • Kara Fourie u14012848

    As eerstejaarstudent wat sopas ook deur ‘n vorm van orientering is voel ek dat orientering in ‘n positiewe lig gesien kan word. Ek verstaan dat universiteit ‘n plek is waar mens die kans het om as individu te groei, maar dit is tog ook lekker om te voel dat mens deel van ‘n groep is. Die “sieg heil’ insident wat plaasgevind het op die PUK mag dalk as kontroversieel gesien word, maar as mens nadink oor die betekenis van die ‘sieg heil’ teken beteken dit min of meer om te “streef na oorwinning”. Ek voel nie dat die PUK hierdeur nou skielik die aksies van die Nazi’s in die Tweede Wereld Oorlog ondersteun nie, maar dalk eerder wens om as ‘n eenheid en groep te groei wat sal streef tot ‘oorwinning’-of it op die akademiese terrein, die sportveld of die kultuur terrein is. Ek voel ook nie dat inisiasie gesien moet word as ‘n vorm van “groep dink’ nie-geen student word gedwing om aan hierdie aktiwiteite deel te neem nie en die wat kies om daaraan deel te neem is hopelik opgewasse genoeg om te verstaan dat die aksies nie noodwendig in ‘n ernstige lig gesien word nie.. Ek voel ook nie dat ‘n universiteit se reputasie en vermoe om as “opvoeder” op te tree bevraagteken moet word na so ‘n insident nie.