From the VC's Desk: Progress in discussing the removal of Rhodes statue

24 March 2015 | Story by Newsroom

24 March 2015

Dear colleagues and students

I am writing to update you on the process relating to the Rhodes statue and also to urge you again to participate in the upcoming University of Cape Town assembly planned for tomorrow, 25 March 2015, and to engage on other forums (such as where you can make known your views not only on the statue, but also larger transformation matters.

As you know, last week we announced a process of engagement on the matter of the Rhodes statue that would allow for debate and discussion involving all constituents at UCT, and that would culminate in a proposal by the Executive to Council on 15 April 2015.

Before I report on the progress with regards to this, I need to say that it has come to my attention that some of the commentary written on the "Have Your Say" notice boards placed next to the Rhodes statue amounts to racist hate speech. This is totally unacceptable and I condemn this in the strongest possible terms. We recognise how this aggravates the pain and hurt experienced by the targets of such insults and it certainly bedevils genuine debate. If we can identify the writers we will certainly take disciplinary action. Because we cannot monitor the boards at all times, and to avoid the offence caused by such anonymous posts under UCT's auspices, we have now removed the boards. The first four boards were well used, with many interesting and constructive comments. These are on display in the Molly Blackburn Memorial Hall.

More generally, it must be clearly understood that any student or staff member (whether protesting or not) or member of the public who make themselves guilty of intolerance, intimidation of and interference with others are behaving in an unacceptable way and we will take the necessary action.

Returning to the progress in the last week, I can report that we have been in discussions with multiple stakeholders on the matter of the statue. I have met with the Senior Leadership Group (SLG) of UCT, namely the deans, the Executive Directors, the Deputy Vice-Chancellors and the Directors of Institutional Planning and the Transformation Office. I am now in a position to confirm that the proposal I have earlier made in my personal capacity – that the statue of Rhodes be removed from its current location – has been supported by all these constituencies, and that the SLG will make this proposal to the Senate (which meets this Friday, 27 March); the PASS forum of professional and support staff (this Thursday, 26 March); the Institutional Forum (today, 24 March), the University Assembly (Wednesday, 25 March), the Convocation meeting (7 April) and culminating in the special sitting of Council.

UCT is an argumentative university. This is an abiding strength: it shows our engagement with the issues of our times and our interest in ideas that matter. Undoubtedly the students are leading a national debate. We have gone to great lengths to allow a free exchange of ideas on the issue of the statue. I urge us all to participate in this week's programme of discussion and to remain respectful of the views of those with whom we differ. I will update you as we proceed.

Yours sincerely

Dr Max Price

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