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Campus Update from the DVC SDS - 30 September 2016

Outcome of SRC and CHC Elections 
As you may be aware, the Student Representative Council (SRC) and the Central Housing Council (CHC) Elections were concluded on Wednesday, and the counting of votes started early on Thursday morning, 29 September and lasted until midnight the same day. Out of 4 student organisations that contested the elections, the Pan Africanist Student Movement of Azania (PASMA) won 11 seats out of 12 for the SRC, with 1 seat going to a candidate from the South African Students Congress (SASCO). 10 out of 10 seats for the Central Housing Committee have been won by PASMA. The election regulations provide for an objection to the results if any party or individual feels that there were irregularities. I am pleased that the announcement of the results confirms that the election process was free, fair and credible and students made a democratic choice. 

Preparations have already begun for the inauguration of both the SRC and CHC 2016/17, which will be followed by a detailed induction programme. The date for the inauguration is being looked at and you will be informed of the final arrangements. The Office of the DVC: SDS will coordinate an institutional process of making sure that the transitional phase is seamless, and that the incoming SRC, to the extent possible, is adequately supported as they “hit the ground running”. 

UWC #FeeswillFall Memorandum of Demands
As stated in the last update, an email was sent to the DVC: SDS by a faceless writer under the banner of #FeeswillFall. Three meeting options were provided to the author of the letter, starting yesterday and today, to discuss the 40 demands. The meeting has not taken place as suggested, and the anonymous writer responded by saying that a mass meeting should instead be convened on Monday, 3 October with the University's Executive Management to discuss the demands. With all things considered, this option was not deemed helpful in reaching the best possible outcome. 

The willingness of the University to engage remains, and it is important to state that it becomes ineffective to engage with a faceless writer because it seems to encourage inconsistencies and it becomes hard to participate in the decision-making process responsibly. Engagement with students remains an important priority for the Institution, and students have invaluable lived experiences of the day to day challenges as well as the impact of decisions and policies that guide higher education. As co-constructors of knowledge, they have a seminal role to play in shaping the future of higher education. Having said that, I note with concern that the spaces created for engagement are not optimally utilised by students, and that they are either rejected, or the responsible statutory bodies are dismissed without much challenge pertaining to what they stand for - but rejections based more on perceptions about what they ascribe to. 

To give effect to the process of further engagement, it has been proposed that after the inauguration of the incoming SRC, a planning meeting should be arranged at which the representatives of both the SRC and #FeeswillFall should sit with the DVC: SDS to facilitate a multi-stakeholder engagement so that a long term view is considered. In so doing we can move away from the ad hoc nature of demands. This way, it is believed, will provide a long-term perspective to issues students are concerned about, and enable the adoption of a monitoring and evaluation process. This idea will also be discussed with the incoming SRC, and we will await feedback from both #FeeswillFall and the SRC executive. 

Today’s DASA Research Report Submission to Management at 2pm 
On 26 September the DVC: SDS received an email from the Differently Abled Student Association (DASA) expressing a wish to submit a research report for the attention of the Executive Management, particularly the DVC: SDS, in line with the Student Development and Support Portfolio. The report is an outcome of a collaborative effort involving the Office for Students with Disabilities (OSwD) at CSSS. Arrangements were finalised, and the DVC: SDS agreed to accept the research report which seeks to highlight the concerns of students with disabilities and suggests additional improvements that the University Executive Management should consider. The research report was presented at 14h15 today, and students dispersed, having expressed a wish to receive a response by Monday, 3 October. 

After the report was received by the DVC: SDS, it was immediately circulated to all relevant departments who are now considering it. Given the different departments that are involved in various areas of concern highlighted in the report, the assessment of what is expected will take place in order to establish what can be achieved in the short-, mid- and long-term. It is our consideration that the important matters raised require an honest and open engagement so that expectations are guided by what is possible. The feedback process will illustrate the concrete efforts that have been made to improve the landscape, but we require a coordinated approach to address the other challenges. 

Based on the above factors, we will continue to engage DASA about the timeline, so that there is no breakdown of communication that could lead to unfortunate misunderstandings.

Kind Regards,
Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Student Development and Support
University of the Western Cape