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Rethinking Gender Violence in Universities

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The Urban Futures Centre (UFC) at DUT, recently held its first seminar on Spaces of Fear and Safety: rethinking gender violence in universities, where guest speaker, Dr Anthony Collins, delivered a presentation on how universities can become organised in response to fears of crime and violence.

Dr Collins recently joined DUT as a Professor in the Department of Media, Language and Communication. He has an interdisciplinary critical social sciences background which includes cultural studies, psychology, and media studies. He holds a PhD from the university of California, Santa Cruz, and has worked at Rhodes University, Wits, and UKZN. Much of his academic work has entailed developing new South African curriculum by applying critical theoretical frameworks to current social problems, for which he was awarded both a UKZN Distinguished Teacher Award and a HELTASA National Excellence in Teaching and Learning Award.

“Gender-based violence includes sexual assault and intimate partner abuse, to name but a few, which does not appear on the official university radar, being massively under-reported. Research findings found that most women in residence experienced gender violence and most are not reported,” he said.

His presentation also highlighted the different versions of safety with images showing security by exclusion, in the form of gates and fences which are based on external threats, and that dangerous outsiders must be prevented from entering. “The images of campus security are clearly images of exclusion, contradicts the idea of a university as safe and an inclusive space. Danger is imagined as originating outside the university, often in terms of class and race. Achieving safety is conceptualised in terms of effectively policing and securing physical boundaries between the university and the surrounding spaces,” he said.

Dr Collins also spoke about focusing on securing physical boundaries with interventions that have been done by means of student activism such as the Rhodes “Silent Protest” and the UKZN “Safe Campus Project”.

In his conclusion, he said the primary risk of violence was not from outsiders. “Securing the physical boundaries is not very effective in eliminating these forms of violence. Excluding outsiders goes against the idea of the university as an inclusive and accessible space. Effective interventions should also address the social norms and inequalities that make everyday violence possible,” he said.

To read more of his work online, go to https://rhodes-za.academia.edu/AnthonyCollins
- Waheeda Peters
Pictured DUT’s Dr Anthony Collins explores the issues of safety in universities.