With the Rag Procession come and gone, the question on Perdeby’s lips is whether Rag  will continue in the future.

Perdeby journalists covered various topics concerning Rag  last year: from Tuks Rag being in debt, to allegations concerning the discontinuation of TuksRes traditions such as Serrie, Ienk Melodienk, Rag and Spring Day. All this culminated in a response from the University of Pretoria’s management saying that Tuks traditions are not in danger and that Rag will continue in 2012 as usual.

Still unsure of Rag’s stability, Perdeby once again contacted the university to see where the debate on Rag stands. Dr Willem Jorissen, the Acting Director of Student Affairs, confirmedthat Tuks Rag will continue as per usual for the current year and added that, “As with all the collective organised student life activities, the value it adds will continuously be evaluated.”

Dr Jorissen assured Perdeby that, “there is no hidden agenda on the future of Rag,” but added that the university is evaluating impact of all student activities such as sport, culture and Rag on “student academic success”, in terms of what they call  the “holistic development of our students.”

Rag (which stands for “reach out and give”) comprises of three main activities at Tuks: the UP Beats festival that hosts local bands and artists to perform on stage at the Rag farm; the Rag Procession where Tuks Residences and Day Houses show their floats to bystanders and collect money for charities; and the crowning of the Rag Queen who will also help the student provider to raise funds for the community.

Tuks Rag Executive Member of Networking and Archives, Thato Moagi, told Perdeby that they have tried to preserve the structure and traditions of Rag as they were since 1915, but that Rag has been forced to change as a student provider because of the dynamics and regulation of the university. She added that Rag was not always financially dependent on the university. “Previously Rag handled all their finances and duties independent of the university,” she says. “We were the only service provider that did not rely on the university for funding, however, since 2010 the university took over our funds and some of the roles, which has changed Tuks Rag dramatically.”  

Perdeby turned to other universities to see what changes their Rags have undergone.

The Oppidan Press, an independent paper run by Rhodes University (RU) students, wrote in their 2011 orientation issue that RU Rag was cancelled in 1992 because of students excessive drinking and misbehaviour. Their Rag comprised of a procession, and often concluded with a Rag ball that evening. According to the article, “Rag was once a highly anticipated event amongst Grahamstown residents.” But as the event eventually came to be considered too “alcohol-orientated”, residents in Grahamstown lost interest in supporting it. Now Rhodes takes part in community-based projects to get students involved in their community.

Stellenbosch University (SU) went through a more recent change. Angélique Mills, the Maties Prim Committee Vice Chairperson, told Perdeby that last year, the Prim Committee of felt that change was needed in the Jool/Rag events, and they decided to only participate in “Vensters” – a ten-minute a show put on by the residence and their Jool partner. As a result the Jool/Rag committee was disbanded in August 2011. The reasons for this decision are numerous ranging from the high cost of Rag to insufficient input from students and a waste of time that could be better utilized by Residences in their Welcoming Programme.

Mills added that the Matie Community Service (Matie Gemeenskap Diens) used to get its funding from Rag, and in an attempt to prevent this department from losing money used to help the community, SU established the Maties MAD² (Making A Decision 2 Make A Difference) committee.

 “Thus MAD² was created to help refocus the main aim of Jool/Rag: bringing in funds for MGD while having student fun,” said Mills, also the MAD² Head Coordinator.  MAD² involves events such as Bondelsport, Vensters, Community Interaction Morning, March for MADness, Maties MAD² Community Festival, Big Bleed and Boekhoek.

 “The Welcoming experience that first years have has not been detracted from or disadvantaged in any way. On the whole the events MAD² offered were very successful and enjoyable to first years,” added Mills, “I can really only see the committee moving forward with the students of Stellenbosch.”

Corné Zanberg, the Rag Chairperson for the North-West University (Pukke), says that he cannot imagine life as a first year without the opportunity to experience Rag.  “Pukke Rag has not changed a lot during the past few years and the spirit and manner in which Rag is held is still the same as in the olden days,” said Zanberg. He added that Pukke controlled Rag by implementing the rule that floats may not cost more than R25 000 and by ensuring that Rag is run by students in a professional manner. 

According to Zanberg, Pukke Rag differs from Rag at other universities because their SRC has two Rag portfolios, namely Rag and SRCS (Student Rag Community Service). The SRCS is a registered NGO and Rag is one of its fund raisers.  Zandberg said that together, the Rag and SRCS forms the biggest student driven charity organisation of its type in the world.

Zanberg said that the current system and regulations that are in place at Pukke should prevent Rag from being changed in future. He added that it will be up to the next two Rag Chairpersons to decide whether Pukke Rag will continue. He said that the way Rag is run should be changed in future, but that the spirit and purpose of Rag should stay as is.

Is it time for Tuks Rag to make a change, or does Tuks do Rag the right way? Tweet @perdebynews or @MargeauxErasmus.

Photos: Gerhard Louw and Marius Veldhuyzen van Zanten

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