The university said his right to “free speech” would be compromised
A petition calling for controversial law student Ntokozo Qwabe to be stripped of his scholarship has been rejected by Oxford University.
Though his actions have been widely condemned in media circles, the university will not be pulling Qwabe’s scholarship because he has a right to “free speech”.
More than 41,000 angry onlookers signed a petition asking the elite university to revoke the Bachelor of Civil Law (BCL) student’s scholarship, after he made abusive comments to a waitress and then boasted about it on Facebook.
But Qwabe is certainly no stranger to controversy. The South African-born student was the fierce campaigner behind the ‘Rhodes Must Fall in Oxford’ movement, critical of the fact that the university has a statue of Cecil Rhodes (pictured below), a major player in the British Empire. But Qwabe then hit the headlines when it was revealed that he was himself a Rhodes’ scholar, and so was — and still is — receiving money from the estate of the man whose statue he was campaigning to pull down.
And then came the waitress saga. This week, Qwabe bragged on Facebook that he had made a waitress cry “typical white tears” when he and a friend wrote on their bill “WE WILL GIVE TIP WHEN YOU RETURN THE LAND”.
His actions led to the creation of the change.org page. Jan Hendrik Ferreira, who started the petition, wrote an open letter to the uni’s vice-chancellor, Louise Richardson, which said:
Qwabe clearly does not uphold the values expected of an institution such as Oxford University and his actions have ultimately brought your educational establishment’s image into disrepute.
He asked that the world-class university revoke the student’s scholarship, “or at the very least, initiate disciplinary action for his recent cowardly and disrespectful behaviour displayed towards a working class female citizen in a Cape Town cafe.”
But Oxford was having none of it. A spokesman for the elite university said that Qwabe’s “free speech” would be violated if he was deprived of his scholarship and made this comment:
Oxford is a place where non-violent speech, however objectionable, can be expressed and challenged.