The purpose of this study is to qualitatively determine whether gender constructions influence gender relations in residences and the role these views have in the perpetuation of rape culture on campus, with a particular interest in how residence traditions contribute to these views.
The social constructionist paradigm was used to co-construct the gender perceptions of residence students through a qualitative research approach. The study was aimed at participants who were familiar with the university’s residences and their traditions (residence students and leaders).
This study was conducted among students at the University of Pretoria, who were familiar with the University’s residences, their traditions and the student protests which have taken place in the University in response to practices that fostered rape culture in the university and its residences, primarily focusing on students staying in campus residences. The study targeted two sets of groups: residence students and key informants. Current undergraduate resident students were the primary target population, regardless of the residence they reside in, their course or year of study. A focus group discussion was held with a group of male and a group of female students. Key informants for this study included residence house committee members, student activist group members and student representative council members.
The researcher was aware of potential conflicts and made efforts to show good judgment and sensitivity to allow students to express their opinions and respect each other’s opinions. The study adhered to the University of Pretoria’s Code of Ethics for Research. The researcher applied the principles of respect for personal autonomy, benevolence, and justice, which do not work in isolation from one another.
The quality, trustworthiness and rigor of the findings were ensured by triangulation of data sources (key informants and students) and data collection methods (focus groups and semi-structured interviews). By using a co-researcher to interpret the data independently, the credibility of the interpretation was enhanced.
These findings show that there is evidence that some residences hold attitudes or beliefs which may perpetuate traditional views of gender, which are made apparent through their traditions and activities. As a result of this, residences can become a breeding ground for the perpetuation of rape culture and the enforcement of harmful gender stereotypes. It is also worth noting that it is not solely the formal traditions which play a role in the perpetuation of rape culture, but informal ones as well. Another key concern is how management of residences manages reported incidences of sexual assault or harassment. It is worth noting however, that residence students feel that there have been changes which resulted in a noticeable difference, particularly in incidences of rape culture. In spite of the highlighted challenges, students feel that there are positives to living in on campus residences.
Mini Dissertation (MA (Research Psychology))--University of Pretoria, 2020.