Whether or not to schedule examinations on Fridays and Saturdays and the Students' Representative Council's (SRC) stance on UCT's admissions policy were the main discussion points at 2013's first sitting of the Student Assembly on 14 March.
Worlds away from stereotypical notions of politically apathetic young people, more than 100 students engaged vociferously with the SRC's political and organisational reports.
The Student Assembly comprises all the university's official student structures that serve as an advisory body to the SRC. It encourages input from all registered students, although voting rights are restricted to members. A committee is currently reviewing the Student Assembly's composition.
SRC president Lorne Hallendorff, also spoke about a number of other key issues including the campaign against gender violence and inequality.
Hallendorff noted that, since initiatives such as the mobile SRC office had helped the student leaders to boost visibility on campus, the SRC would focus more strongly on policy development.
One such policy is UCT's admissions policy, which uses race as a proxy for disadvantage. While the admissions policy (and its use of race) is currently under review, some students expressed displeasure that the SRC had not yet formulated an official stance on the matter in time for a Senate meeting on the subject on 15 March.
Hallendorff was at pains to assure the house that the SRC had not fallen behind with its mandate, and that the 15 March meeting was not to decide whether or not to eliminate the use of race, but to decide on how to proceed with research on the subject before a final decision was made.
The issue of scheduling examinations on Fridays and Saturdays (exams are scheduled only from Monday through Thursday at present) also drew fiery debate. Dr Karen van Heerden, deputy registrar, was invited to explain the technical context of the university's proposal to that effect. Religious commitments and unreliable public transport were key objections to the suggestion.
The SRC voted in favour of accepting the university's proposals to have exams on Fridays and Saturdays, but the house was divided. The recommendation was rejected by a simple majority. A two-thirds majority would have bound the SRC to the house's decision.
As it stands, the SRC needs to generate a final stance on the matter issue before Senate meets on 19 April.
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