Dear Campus Community,
This communique serves as an update on the developments on campus.
We recognise and take note of the advances made on various campuses with respect to the national fees-must-fall campaign. These advances to resume the academic programme on the campuses have been made possible because both the student leadership and university management have separated the national from institution-specific issues. The national issues include, among others, the demand for free education, institutional autonomy and student debt. The resolution of these issues will require a national dialogue between the student leaders, university management, private sector, civil society and government.
On the other hand, internal conversations about campus-specific issues should be held at institutional level. Furthermore, it is our considered view that these conversations should run parallel to the resumption of the academic project. It is this approach that has made it possible for some universities to restore stability and create an environment conducive for final examinations to proceed.
Equally, the University of the Western Cape has the responsibility to ensure the academic project is not jeopardised. It is for these reasons that the University management will be meeting with the Student Representative Council to expedite a process to resolve our institution-specific issues.
I also wish to correct the misconception that seems to exist that I in some way did not honour an obligation to meet with the students on Monday, 26 October 2015. No such undertaking was given to students at the meeting held with students at the Student Centre on Friday, 23 October 2015. A viewing of the video clip of this meeting confirms this. This video was posted on YouTube and other social media sites. Despite this, as an Executive we were on campus on Monday and received no such request to address the students. Accordingly, the suggestion that the Executive has been unresponsive has no grounds.
Yesterday small groups of students acted in a threatening and intimidatory manner by forcibly entering buildings and demanding that students and staff leave the campus. Many staff and students expressed anxiety and fear. This sense of fear was exacerbated by the presence of students wearing balaclavas and brandishing sticks, sjamboks and crowbars. There were also incidents of breaking down doors and damage to property.
In this regard, I wish to reiterate that the decision to close the University was made in the interest of the safety of students and staff. It is regrettable and sad that our staff and students should experience anxiety, fear and being traumatised in an environment which ordinarily should be safe and secure.
Our support for the students’ struggle for the right of access to higher education is unquestionable. This, however, does not mean that as a responsible University we should condone such threatening behaviour from a small group of students.
At the same time we also note the views of many students who have communicated, via social media and emails to management, their desire to have certainty and to continue with the assessments and examinations. It is in this context that we therefore call for a process parallel to the continuation of examinations and assessment to resolve outstanding crucial issues. It is this approach that we will be advocating for in our engagements with student representatives. We request the entire campus community to support us in this approach.
Please be assured that we are focused on finding a way forward within the next two days so as to ensure that the examinations start on Monday, 2 November 2015.
Issued by the Rector and the Executive Team
27 October 2015