Cooperative governance

10 October 2005

Following the withdrawal of the Student Representative Council from committees of institutional governance, a meeting to resolve the issues leading to the SRC's withdrawal took place between the SRC and the UCT administration on October 3.

The meeting was chaired by the chair of Council, Advocate Geoff Budlender, and serviced by Jerome September from the Student Development and Services Department (SDSD). The SRC delegation consisted of Nqobizitha Mlilo (president), Yershen Pillay (secretary-general), Muhammed Surty (vice-president: external) and Andrea Africa (transformation coordinator).

The administration was represented by Professor Thandabantu Nhlapo (DVC tasked with the student portfolio), Professor Martin Hall (DVC tasked with the with planning portfolio) and Moonira Khan (executive director: SDSD). Observers from the incoming SRC were Siphiwe Hlongwane (president), Tebogo Moalusi (entertainment and fundraising) and Peter-Paul Mbele (secretary-general).

In preliminary comments, the chair noted that the meeting was faced with issues both of an abstract and overarching kind, as well as those of detail and practical implementation. The former, involving as they did questions of principle and of policy, would most probably take up more time than the latter, which could possibly be disposed of more easily.

There was thus the possibility that the talks would require several meetings to produce the total result but that, nevertheless, agreements on the immediately attainable should not be delayed by the items needing deeper debate.

All parties generally accepted this analysis, as they accepted the need for the discussion to proceed in a cordial, constructive and accommodating fashion.

The SRC document, containing the student position on the two broad categories of cooperative governance and fees, was tabled and discussed. The discussion was frank and open, and ranged from the general to the particular. Clarifications were sought and offered.

Discussions around cooperative governance involved issues such as student membership of Council, Senate and other of the university's committees and structures; empowerment for effective participation in these structures; SRC intervention in cases of student distress; transformation and communication.

The fees discussion included questions on the university budget and the budgeting cycle, financial aid, accommodation expenses for medical students during the vacation, initial fee payments, accountability for university financial management, and transparency.

At the end, there was broad agreement that many of the student demands were reasonable and legitimate; that some had already been addressed, for example the scrapping of charges for supplementary examinations, and that others were capable of reasonably speedy solution.

It was also common cause that some of the items under discussion had to be channelled elsewhere, either for clarification, debate or sign-off, and that the rest would form the core of the continuing negotiations.

The meeting concluded by proposing, as a way forward, that:

  • the administration delegation should prepare a written response to the SRC document, setting out its impressions as outlined above so as to bring out those issues that were conceded, and those that could be easily addressed, thus isolating those that required further debate
  • the SRC would redeploy student representatives into committees for institutional governance, with immediate effect.

In parallel with the preparation of this document, Nhlapo and the outgoing SRC president would develop a public statement on the meeting and the status of the talks so far, before Thursday, October 6.

The meeting resolved to reconvene in the week beginning October 10.

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