University House Committee members' depictions of residence traditions: a learning and cultural agility programme
The literature attests that university traditions have a long history and still form an integral part of student cultural life: they teach students about the history of the institution and are seen as instilling shared values and generating pride in their alma mater. In a South African context, 'orientation' of students varies from formal orientation to academic life to informal orientation that includes traditional activities that the new students are expected to take part in. According to De Kock (2010), formal activities usually involve activities that are academic in nature such as registering at the university and getting to know the facilities and services the university offers. Informal activities focus on integrating students into the campus community. On-campus residence students specifically engage in activities with other residents in their respective residences. In many cases these include learning about or experiencing residence traditions at first hand. Nuwer (2001;2004) and Van Jura (2010) emphasise that although hazing, initiation activities and practices are wrongs of passage that are not approved by the university and may even be formally banned by the universities, they are still continued by senior students. De Kock (2010) and Van Jura (2010) argue that traditions, orientation of students and ritual activities have become so embedded in the culture of universities, campuses and residences that authorities do not see the risk some of the traditions hold. Not only do these traditional activities or rituals pose a threat to students' well-being, health and safety, but they also have a negative effect on the teaching and learning environment. Many newspapers report on violence, aggression and discrimination generated by the specific traditions of on-campus residences at universities. These infringe on students' human rights. This kind of destructive behaviour runs counter to the notion that HCs (house committee) members are (to be) caregivers and instructors to assist residents to adjust to their new environment in such a way that they feel welcome, safe and secure. This qualitative research study is situated in an interpretivist research paradigm. A phenomenological approach was used to explore, describe and explain university house committee members' depictions of residences traditions. The sample consisted of forty purposefully selected university house committee members (years of study: ranges between second- fith year of studies) who reside in university on-campus residences. Due attention was given to ethical considerations. Data generation was done by means of in-depth semi-structured individual interviews that were audio-recorded and transcribed verbatim. Thematic analysis was used to analyse the data generated. The findings that emerged during data analysis include: i) the conceptualisations of on-campus residence traditions; ii) diverse perspectives of house committee members' depictions on on-campus residence traditions; iii) insights into house committee members' experiences of residence traditions, and iv) house committee members' suggested ways of developing an inclusive residence culture. Trustworthiness criteria and strategies were employed to enhance the trustworthiness of this qualitative research study. This research study included the design and development of a Learning and Cultural Agility Programme to enhance an inclusive residence culture. After it had been implemented, the programme was evaluated by the participants. In conclusion, if students do not become learning and culturally agile, as envisioned in the Learning and Cultural Agility Programme, they will remain stuck in their own ways of thinking, unable to create innovative, relevant residence traditions that promote an inclusive residence culture.
- Education