Thursday, October 26, 2006

Philosophical Thursday: Discipline

One of our bright third year students, Sdu, sent me a thought-provoking e-mail today. I thought others would like to comment as well.

I want to know how you feel about
the fact that the people,in the college,
who are supposedly there to help students in times of need also sit in
the disciplinary committee?The most prominent of these being the
AD's,the Deans themselves, the VP for Student Services and,at least the last time i
checked.the chaplain.

I guess your double role does make it kinda difficult for you to be one
or the other.In other words you cannot be both the
counsellor and the disciplinarian.I don't know if you're getting me.Say
a guy here in the dorms is having a problem with
imbibing fermented drinks but they are finding it difficult to stop and
they are looking for help,but the one office they can find help is
occupied by the chairman of the DC.My question is two fold.In such a
case;who does the youngster turn to?and should you be approached with
such a problem;how do you handle it?Now i'm not talking about you
catching the individual in the act,but rather they come to you to
confess,that they have been drinking in your dormitory.Do you yield to
the beckoning of your conscience or do you give into the demands of
school policy?
I've written this response... although it is not very coherent and clear as yet.

I sympathize greatly. I've experienced this same conundrum a few times in my life. It gets worse when you are a pastor in a conference and you are facing issues in your personal life or in your faith life, and you know that if you go talk to your pastor (The conference president) about it, it could effect your career, your ordination, your next job placement etc. The church has tried to solve this issue by voting in a policy recently that allows pastors to see a psychologist. The psychologist may then send the bill to the Conference to pay without disclosing who the pastor is that saw her.

I think your point is definitely valid that the College should put in place structures where problems can be dealt with confidentially. I think the chaplain agrees with this because he specifically requested to be taken of the disciplinary committee. In 2005 the psychologist was also not on the disciplinary committee. This year she is there. I think it is worth petitioning the College through student services to change this.

In terms of the roles of the Deans and the Student Services Director, I feel slightly different though. But the role definition of the deans are very complex and sometimes even confusing to ourselves, and I reserve the right to change my mind as the discussion continues :-).

We are definitely seen as parents. Now that immediately makes things challenging because parents, by definition, have the dual functions of discipline and care. Many parents actually fight quite strongly for the right to administer discipline themselves. I remember when I got myself into trouble with the law when I was a high school kid, there was a very real possibility that I could have had to face courts and the harsh penalties of an uninvolved justice system - my parents intervened and spoke to the authorities and asked very nicely that they be allowed to administer discipline at home. In this case it worked and I got some good discipline - but at least I did not have a criminal record (In those days the police still gave lashes to juvenile offenders).

Also, I think it is a good principle in the process of discipline to have it administered by somebody who is involved and caring, rather than by somebody who is completely removed and clinical. The purpose of discipline is seldom to come up with vengeful acts of retribution. The purpose is to act as an influence in the life of a student that will guide him in the right way in life. Here it helps to have somebody who is involved and, in a sense, not objective. Cold objectivity could easily result in two situations: Punishment can be harsh and punitive (as opposed to restorative) or alternatively punishment can be irrelevant and not take into account the real issues that the student needs to face. In either way it can undermine the main purposes of discipline (character formation, re-building relationships etc.).

It happens once in a while that there is a clash between the interests of the student and the interest of an institution. Eg... when a student leader drinks in public and damages the public's opinon of the institution. It is interesting that I've experienced this almost every single time that the deans bring balance in a disciplinary committee - arguing for discipline to address the needs of the student before they address the needs of the institution.

I actually think we are a very useful resource on the disciplinary committee. (By the way, do you know that the College Management did not want us on the dc this year?... one or two cases were handled without us, but we found ourselves just becoming involved almost by default by virtue of our contact and interest with the students who were facing diciplinary action)

On a slightly more technical level - the role of the dormitory dean is also a management role that requires that things be in order and running smoothly - this requires discipline. Eg. stealing or violence or bullying, or insubordination, or drunken parties, or excessive noise levels ... all conflict with the management priorities in a dormitory and the manager needs to make use of discipline at various levels of intensity to be able to create and maintain an environment that is condusive to study and healthy development.

Anyway... I can probably go on.

Time does not allow for much more, but let me say one more thing:

One: I do not buy the argument that being college rules should necessarily (and without question) lead to discipline. Eg. I've dealt with at least two cases this year where students came and told me that they unlawfully took girls into their rooms. They did this because they were affraid that somebody was going to find out about it and that they would then be in trouble. When they told me (it was an admission of guilt) and committed to change their behaviour, I saw absolutly no need to take punitive action. Punishment is really only ever effective if it can bring about a change in behaviour.

I've had people asking for help with drugs and sexual issues (both in terms of girlfriend/boyfriend sexual relations and in terms of sexual orientation) - This is where the other side of being a parent comes in. Care, counseling, advice, guidance. In fact... in one case it happened that a cold outside observer made a charge against one student based on behaviour that seemed completely out of line to him, but because myself, and my assistant knew this student and the challenges that he was facing we were able to prevent disciplinary action from being taken against the student.

I am not sure that we always succeed in this. I certainly do not have everybody's trust. And, yes, I think I think I've made one or two bad judgement calls in the past.

......but thanks for the questions.... keep talking to me. You're making me think.

What is your opinion on the issue?

Wednesday, October 25, 2006


Today I heard that our ladies residence also started a blog! This is really exciting. My experience is that it takes a bit of time to get the whole thing up and running and to gain momentum. I hope they are going to have lots of fun. And I will definitely be checking in there frequently.

Somebody who lives in my dormitory and who has a regular presence online is Reynolds. Reynolds is spending a semester at our College from the United States. He is lamenting the fact that he cannot stay longer. It is worth exploring his blog which contains many photos chronicling his experience, travels, and life in general.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

More Pictures from the Dome (4th Peak)

Conrad Zygmont kindly provided us with photos that he took of the group on the Dome.

Maybe we should carry some paint up on our next trip to beautify the beacons somewhat.

Wow! I can't believe it! Even Nokothula made it to the top :-) She was complaining that she could not breathe from the second contour already! You GO Girl!

If only the photographer could capture the fear in the hearts of the students as they walked on this exposed ledge. (The sheer cliff face in front and below is very imposing and frightening. But what would a mountain be if they did not allow us to confront our inner fear from time to time?)

Monday, October 23, 2006

Conquering Helderberg Mountain: Report

It is strange to think that there are so many students at Helderberg College who would have passed through three or more years of study at Helderberg without making it to the top of the mountain even though it is literally in our back yard.

On Sunday, 22 October, 24 students, did however make it to the top of the mountain.

This is how it happened:

We said we would leave at 07:00, but as usual, the girls from Anne Visser House (we usually just call it: the Girls Dormitory), spent an extra 30 minutes putting on their make-up, and making themselves look fashionable. So we left at 7:30.

We followed a less common route up along the Spanish Farm boundary of the College, and not the more common route that goes up straight against the protea farm. This route provided varied terrain and different views.

As expected the group quickly divided into two sections, an agile section and a slow section. The agile ones reached the top of the mountain while I was still sorting out somebody with cramps at the foot of the cliff face (Oom Sias, our farm manager drove up with a 4x4 and gave her a quick way down.)

The agile group met up with Conrad Zygmont, one of our adventurous staff members, who guided them to the top of Fourth Peak (The Dome) while the rest of us relaxed on West Peak. I was with the group who relaxed and therefore my photos are limited to those who stayed with me.

The day was not entirely without drama.

One of our girls who attempted to climb Fourth Peak twisted her ankle. Our Salisbury house guys were so eager to climb the mountain that they did not pay her much heed. Thankfully a group of climbers attached to the Hottentots-Holland section of the Mountain Club of South Africa were also climbing on the mountain.

They were able to provide treatment. At one stage, as they were assessing the problem they even had a helicopter on standby to evacuate her. Fortunately a little bit of loving attention helped her relax and she was able to walk down to Disa Gorge where a 4x4 from the local Search and Rescue organisation was able to pick her up. We really need to thank the Mountain club for their very kind assistance. They rightly remarked that several of our students did not have correct footwear for the mountains and that we must not ever underestimate the dangers on the mountain.

The biggest drama, which I did not want to mention to anybody out of sheer embarrassment is that I (the one who organised the trip) was so busy packing first aid kits and cameras that I left my food for the trip on my diningroom table. I only discovered this when I opened my bag on top of First Peak! It is amazing how appetising a packet of licorice Allsorts can be when there is nothing else to eat. I consoled myself with the fact that I know many mountain climbers who survived days without food in mountains.

The whole exercise was very enjoyable and I hope that we can do this more frequently. I hope that a few students will develop a passion for such activities in the process.

Mike and Bulumko relaxing at the top.

On the way down there is a beautiful exposed area. Clementine is accompanied by Will from the Langa Adventist Church.

A small group about 1/4 of the way down the mountain.

We could see some of our other group of climbers walking on top of the Dome. They were small like ants. The camera did not pick it up, but it is possible to use one's imagination.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Dormitory Food

I think this is typical of most people's experiences in a dormitory. The food in the cafetaria just never taste like the food you get at home!

So what this student and his friends did was to begin to support the local pizza shop. And the evidence is put on display in their room.

I wonder what kind of bacteria is growing inside those used boxes.

Perhaps the pizza shop can thank us for our patronage by sponsoring a flat screen TV for the dormitory :-)

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Conquering Helderberg Mountain

In my previous blog post I mentioned that we plan to climb Helderberg mountain with a number of students from Salisbury House and Helderberg College on Sunday 22 October.

In preperation for this climb, I took a day off work this week-end and walked up the mountain myself.

(A picture of the rest of the Hottentots Holland Range from West Peak)

A few notes on the walk:

1. I did see one snake. A 90cm long puff adder. The good news is that she got such a big fright that she is now at least 10 farms away from us. (I would say that I could vouch for it because I met it in the Nature reserve on the way down, but I think that would frighten people off.)

2. It took me (with a 110 + something kg. frame 2 hours to walk to the top of the mountain. It took another 1hr 50 minutes to walk down.) I feel a bit intimidated by the fact that the students, who are young and fit might feel the need to do it in less time.

(A view of The Dome from the beacon on West Peak. To get there we will have to descend about 300 metres along a steep little path down West Peak and then walk about 1 km on a countour path that leads to the ascent part of The Dome.)

3. It is definitely worth it. The scenes are really beautiful. I am unhappy with myself that I waited two years to do this trip up the mountain. (I did climb the Dome last year though.)

There was a bit of hazyness in the air. Down below is Helderberg College.

This is what Helderberg Nature Reserve looks like from the top of West Peak. We will eventually finish our hike down by the large dam - right at the bottom of the hill :-).

If you are a Helderberg Student, I hope to see you on top of the mountain.
Read my previous post to find out what to bring with you.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Conquering the Helderberg Mountain Range

We All Know this View!

But who of us know the view from the top of these mountains?

Join us on a trip to the top of the Helderberg Mountain Range.

Date: Sunday, 22 October 2006
Time: 07:00
Place of Departure: Computer Lab Entrance

We will hike from Helderberg College to the top of West Peak. Enjoy as you get to see new images and perspectives of the College as we climb up the slopes.

The hike up West Peak will take approximately 2 hours. At this point the ones who are less fit will be able to return via the same route that we came.

The more adventurous climbers will traverse past the 2 central peaks and then climb the more challenging Dome (4th Peak). The Dome is the highest peak in the Helderberg Range (Higher than Table Mountain). You will enjoy beautiful views of Stellenbosh and the Winelands, and of the Helderberg Basin. We are likely to see a pair of Black eagles and some small wildlife.

We should reach the top of the Dome by 11:30 - 12:00. We will eat lunch on the Dome and return with the beautiful winding path down Porcupine Buttress to the Nature reserve where transport will be waiting to bring us back to the College.

What to bring:

1. Good Walking Shoes.
2. At Least 2 Litres of water.
3. Some snacks to eat on the way. Watch for further announcements about what you can get from the Cafeteria.
4. Bring a warm jacket or sweater to wear in case the weather becomes unpleasant on the mountain.
5. You will need something to carry all of your things in. A small day-pack will be perfect.

If you are interested in this you might want to explore the following links.

A map of the area (although it does not indicate the path on top of the mountain.)

Other people have been up there before.

Social Programme for the end of 2006

We have a very full social programme planned for Salisbury House (and Anne Visser House) for the rest of the year. I will post individual articles and reports on these social programmes, but what follows is a quick summary:

Sat 7 October: Board Games in Gym, followed by dvd's projected against the Gym wall.

Sun 8 October: Business Club Banquet

Sat 14 October: Senior Class Banquet

Sun 15 October: Prison Break! (Salisbury House Open House)

Sun 22 October: Conquer Helderberg Mountains (Climb up West Peak and the Dome).

Sat 28 October: Money or the Box! Live game show with many prizes to be won.

Sat 4 November: Camp Fire and Poetry Evening with Mathodzi (Mieliebraai).

Sun 12 November: Survivor Helderberg! (Watch this space!)

Sat 18 November: Volleyball on the Beach

If you live in Salisbury House, or study at Helderberg College, there is no better place to be.

Pictures of Salisbury House

Well, it is just a building, but for many over the last 50 years, it has been home.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Once a year we say good bye to our Matrics. We recently had our Matric Banquet at Neethlingshof, a wine farm near Stellenbosh.

Attached are some of the pictures taken at the meeting. All the photographs are of people who live in the dormitory.

This is Joshua about 45 minutes before the banquet, playing playstation in the Salisbury House foyer.

At the same time, Jean Luc is in a slightly further state of readiness, but he has to clear up something with one of his girlfriends on the phone.

The sun had just set when we arrived at the venue. Steve, one of the Grade 11 hosts waits for us.

Another two of the evenign hosts. Reggie is a proud resident of room 50 in Salisbury house.

Musa, is the Shaka Zulu of the matric in our dormitory this year.

Joshua looks a little bit better by this time. His parents live in Zimbabwe and could not make it for the function.

This is Jean-Luc with what appears to be his main girlfriend. Jean-Luc is from the Seychelles.

Jean Luc with another attachment (Tashlyn who lives in the girlsdorm).

This is Ndile with his girl. Ndile is Xhosa and has recently completed his initiation cermony into manhood. We would probably have forgotten about it if he did not remind us on almost a daily basis :-).

Jean-Luc, Musa and Ndile.

Thedore John (TJ) is one of my resident assistants. He is just one of Jean-Luc's ornamental attachments. (Although he officially accompanied Tashlyn that evening).

Ah, Cute :-).

Man! We have a good looking Matric Class! I just had to get in as well to ruin the picture.

Oh, I completely forgot about Dudu, who also lives in the Girls Dormitory.

And then there was the food.

It is strange that everybody left when the food was finished. Perhaps there was a lively after party somewhere.

It was a lovely evenign. Thanks to the Grade 11's for organising it so well. And Good luck to the Matrics for their upcoming exams.

Monday, October 02, 2006

I am the current dormitory Dean at Salisbury House, Helderberg College, Somerset West in the Western Cape in South Africa.

The College is run by the Seventh-day Adventist church.

I envision this blog to be a dumping ground for just about anything that happens from day to day at the dorm. I'm not advertising the dorm or the College. I'm just going to talk about life in the dorm.

We have 4 Matrics in the dormitory. They recently had a matric banquet and I got to take some photos. I thought I'd just publish them here.

We plan some fun socials during this semester and why not write about them here, and perhaps take some pictures as well.

I've been thinking that if some ex Salisbury house residents discover this blog they could perhaps send some anecdotes about life in the dormitory when they were here. I will certainly publish it.

Hopefully I won't be the only contributor. I might ask some of my assistants if they would like to be co-contributors to the blog. We might see some posts from them as well.

I hope you will enjoy this blog.