6 October 2016
Dear colleagues and students
As you are all no doubt aware, the University of Cape Town is closed for the remainder of this week. This is an unfortunate decision that the university executive took in light of an environment that clearly is not conducive to teaching and learning. The executive had hoped to keep the university open by increasing the presence of security. It is clear, however, that this was having the opposite effect. Conflict intensified, resulting in an increasingly polarised university community.
We reported to the community on the situation at the Steve Biko Students' Union building on Tuesday evening, 4 October 2016. Since that communication, reports have reached us that the behaviour by some members of the private security company who were present that evening escalated the violence or added to the conflict, or that they acted with unnecessary force. I have arranged for this to be investigated immediately.
With the prevailing conditions on campus, not only is the academic project itself seriously compromised but we also risk creating scars, which will imperil healing in the future. We must find a way out of this impasse and we must strive to overcome the deep divisions that presently characterise our institution.
The overwhelming consensus emerging is that we need to embark immediately on a process of mediation through an Institutional Reconciliation and Transformation Commission (IRTC).
The executive is presently working with all the major university stakeholders towards achieving this objective. The IRTC will focus on all the pressing issues that continue to divide us and are preventing the resumption of the academic programme.
The executive remains committed to the successful completion of the 2016 academic year. We believe that through this process of mediation we will find enough common ground to act in the best interests of the university community as a whole. Also, we have a task team that is looking at alternative scenarios for completing the academic year, given that we will lose at least three weeks of teaching. Each dean is looking at their respective faculty options too. We are developing alternative scenarios that include how to complete the academic year even if there is no more face-to-face teaching in the rest of this semester. We are trying to find solutions, even if they are not perfect.
Over these days that the university is closed, the executive will be engaged in intensive discussions aimed at moving the university forward. It is our fervent hope and belief that this process will yield the best possible outcome and that it will lead to a solution that the whole campus community can embrace and support.
Dr Max Price
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