The covid-19 pandemic has completely flipped the once-vibrant student culture of universities on its head, impacting students’ social lives and identities in various ways. (more…)
O- Week was a blast for first timers and a bittersweet treat for returning students. While many students were still struggling to pay for fees and accommodation; res students moved in, the Flea market rolled into town, clubs and societies were canvasing for members, Vowfm kept students nay naying with awesome jams and the beer garden was a haven for anyone looking to let loose. Witsies did not let the presence of private security from enjoying O-week.
There is something about walking into university on your first day. Bright-eyed and bushy tailed.
You’ve finished matric, maybe done a gap year and pretty much think you know everything.
You imagine yourself being part of a corny college flick as you walk through the hallways, imagining that you may just fall in love with the cute guy standing in line next to you (Freddie Prinze Jr.) at the campus food store – trust me, it happens, or so I’ve heard.
On my first day I was ready to take on Wits and better yet – the big bad world. I was so excited on my first day that I missed a step and clumsily tripped, falling flat on my face while ascending the steps of the Great Hall (not my finest hour).
I never attended my first year Welcome Day – my siblings took me around to see the place and helped me get my bearings.
I realised after attending Welcome Day as an alumni that I should have done so. I re-lived it, albeit a little late and even got my Kudu horns. I never attended my first O-week either, or my second or even my third. Embarrassingly I thought it was below me. What do I need to attend that for? It’s a waste.
Missing O-week resulted in me missing out on a big discovery: There are societies on campus. Societies for climbers, swimmers, dancers, singers, debaters, Jewish students, silly students and pretty much anything your heart desires.
I missed out on drunken parties, beer gardens, Nike runs and worst of all: Silly Buggers and Model UN (I mean seriously; how did I miss that?).
I only discovered the beauty of The Origin Centre while on the Red Bus tour around Johannesburg this year.
I didn’t attend O-week until my Honours year. Don’t make the same mistake. There’s a lot to see and a lot to discover. So use the time you have you here wisely.
As you start attending classes you learn quickly that as much as you thought you knew everything – you don’t. There are people who are cleverer, smarter and quicker than you. But as time passes you learn to stop comparing yourself to others.
I learned that it was important to learn things at your own pace and that asking questions is okay – you’re not nerdy or stupid as the stigma goes in high school. And I learned that the hard way.
Meet your lecturers, connect with them – I only realised how important those relationships were once I got to third year. But there is a fine line between networking and kissing butt – nobody likes a “teacher’s pet”.
When it comes to making friends, get out there and make new friends every year. Don’t just keep to the same group. The friends I have made at varsity are the ones I will keep for life.
I haven’t visited the Planetarium yet (not even at school) and with only two months left at Wits, it’s on the agenda together with dropping into a MUN meeting, jamming with my guitar on the library lawns, jumping into the pool with my clothes on and making friends with the VC.
Don’t get me wrong – my years here were far from doom and gloom. The four years I spent at Wits were probably the happiest of my life. I loved varsity. Period. And I hope to get back here soon to do an English masters.
But as all good things come to an end there are always moments you wish you could remember. At the same time you have to remind yourself: There are no regrets, just the things you didn’t do.
With a stronger signal and the opportunity to attract more listeners, Voice of Wits (VoW FM) is “bringing the fire” as the VoW crew say.
This past week they re-launched as a fresh station and are now available on 88.1 FM, a frequency on which no other broadcaster exists, according to station manager Mike Smurthwaite. He said with their previous frequency (90.5) they shared the space with GrootFM, which is based in Pretoria, and found there was often a clash.
“It took four and a half years to find a solution to the problem but finally we managed to find a new frequency which is feasible and gives better coverage,” he told Wits Vuvuzela.
The new frequency will cover most of Jo’burg and reaches places such as Edenvale, Boksburg, Soweto, Dobsonville, Sandton and Rosebank that did not receive it before.
After spending last weekend testing and putting the final touches on everything, the team were able to go “100% live” at the start of O-week.
When asked what would be different about the campus radio station this year, Smurthwaite said being able to reach more people and students, especially those who fall directly into their target market, would encourage people to actually be involved.
“Now, the potential is there for the Wits community and for Wits students to buy into the station and they own the station … fundamentally, the community owns the station,” he said.
One of the biggest complaints, according to Smurthwaite, was being unable to actually hear the station. Even at Wits, which fell directly within the frequency range, the signal was not always good. Even people staying in res, at Junction, often couldn’t hear it.
“So obviously people don’t even try to consume the product, nor do they even try to engage with the station, because they don’t see the point,” he said.
As part of their new look and feel, the team spent the week engaging and interacting with new students and student societies, broadcasting live each day from the Great Hall plaza.
“We’re trying to create a culture that says to students, ‘there’s more to life at Wits than academics’,” said Smurthwaite.
His team worked all through the holidays to prepare for the year ahead. “It’s taking what could not be heard before, polishing it and providing something that’s of high quality.”
Voice of Wits (VoW FM) is heading for bigger and better things in 2015, as the campus radio station prepares to expand its reach across Johannesburg.
The radio station, now in its fifth year since re-launching in 2011, will soon be broadcast for a 10km radius around its Braamfontein headquarters.
“Previously we had about a 2km range,” said station manager Mike Smurthwaite. This included the whole campus, with the exception of Parktown residence Junction, where the frequency experienced problems.
“But now we’re going to cover the whole of campus, Junction and even further into Braamfontein.” This, he explained, is what’s called “very high frequency” and means that more listeners will be able to tune in, from further away.
With plans to re-launch and promote with a fresh, new brand during O-Week, Smurthwaite and the team have a big task ahead of them. A new logo, more recording facilities and space, and plans to “invade public spaces without people even knowing it’s going to happen” are just some of what students and the Braamfontein community have to look forward to.
According to Smurthwaite, there are almost no spare radio frequencies available in Johannesburg, so when VoW was offered one, they jumped at the opportunity to improve their sound and reach.
“Our team worked all through the holidays to make this happen,” he said.
A speech by Democratic Alliance (DA) spokesperson Mmusi Maimane during O-week was cancelled, allegedly because the party’s Wits youth wing failed to follow university procedure.
The alleged violation of protocol by the DA Student Organisation (DASO) resulted in Maimane being denied a speaking slot shortly before he was scheduled to address students.
Tokelo Nhlapo, SRC vice-president, told Wits Vuvuzela Maimane did not get permission to address students.
Prem Coopoo, dean of students, said she approves all society events of a political nature and does not allow any political speakers on campus during O-week. She added that the new executive committee may not have been aware of the procedure.
Maimane claimed censorship
Maimane said he was not allowed to speak at the clubs and societies’ marquee on the Great Hall piazza, although DASO had confirmed a 15-minute time slot the day before. The SRC drew up a timetable to give different societies the opportunity to promote themselves throughout the week.
In a press statement, Maimane described the incident as “anti-democratic bullying” by the “ANCYL-run Wits SRC”. Fourteen of the 15 elected SRC members belong to the Progressive Youth Alliance, a coalition between several student organisations including the Wits ANC Youth League.
“This is yet another example of how the ANC is attempting to close down the democratic space at our universities. There is a growing intolerance in the ANC of differing views,” he said.[pullquote]”He cannot expect to be given red carpet treatment here because he’s opposition”.[/pullquote]
Tshediso Mangope, Wits ANCYL chairperson, accused Maimane of “cheap politicking”.
“This ‘Robin Hood style’ of manoeuvring is not going to assist us … he cannot expect to be given red carpet treatment here because he’s opposition,” Mangope said.
In e-mail correspondence, DASO Wits requested a speaking slot with Apelele Pindani, SRC Clubs and Societies officer, over a week before the start of o-week.
But after Maimane’s arrival, Luyolo Mphithi, DASO Wits leader, said he was informed by the SRC that the society had not received the necessary clearance to have a political figure address students.
“They were telling us that we didn’t get permission to get him inside Wits and that he was not allowed to be inside.”
Published in Wits Vuvuzela (2nd edition), 15th February 2013
For first year students in residence, orientation means an entirely different thing.
From the first Sunday of orientation week, house committee members in each respective residence organise and control all their fresher’s movements.
“There are certain activities that are part of res traditions,” says Pearl Pillay, the vice chairperson of the Sunnyside House committee.
“But there are generic things like the talent show, a competition between residences, the welcome dinner for all residences and a sports day.”
Pillay believes the orientation process is necessary for first year students, even though it can be “rough”.
“I like the process. I always say that res is a culture, not just a place to live in. You need that week to get accustomed to it.”
Residence traditions were also an important part of orientation such as socialising with other residences. On Tuesday the 7th students from Sunnyside Girls’ Residence had dinner at Earnest Oppenheimer Hall where they had to get to know their brother residence a little better.
First years are also taken for tours around Constitution Hill and South African Breweries (SAB).