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South Africa: Should white students who made racist video be reinstated?

The video, filmed by white South African students who fed black workers food apparently laced with urine, caused the students to be expelled. But now a black university official says they should be reinstated.

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It's not easy to peddle reconciliation in South Africa these days.

Two weeks ago, the new vice chancellor of the University of Free State called for the school to reinstate four white students who were kicked out after making a racist video in which they forced black staffers to eat food that was apparently laced with urine. Criminal charges against the four students remain, but Vice Chancellor Jonathan Jansen – himself a black South African – said that the University of Free State as an institution was as much to blame for these students' behavior as the individual students were themselves, and needed to transform itself into an institution that encouraged understanding.

"To dismiss the video as a product of four bad apples is too easy an explanation. This video-recording was preceded by a long series of racial incidents protesting racial integration, especially in the residences of the university," Professor Jansen said in a speech at the University of Free State in Bloemfontein. (See full speech here.) "I have spent many nights in tears regretting what we – yes, we – did to the five black workers of the University of Free State. This institution begs your forgiveness."

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