Dear colleagues and students
The University of Cape Town (UCT) executive is dismayed by the Students’ Representative Council’s (SRC) persistence in blocking access to our campuses. This is despite the executive’s repeated assurances, backed up by detailed factual reports, that the backlog of student registrations had been cleared by the end of Wednesday, 16 February 2022 and that students awaiting the outcomes of their appeals against exclusion for outstanding fees had been given access to Vula (UCT’s student online learning platform) by their academic departments.
A special meeting of Council will be held on Monday, 21 February 2022 specifically to consider our overall approach to student debt, and the SRC-elected members of Council will be at the Council meeting to convey their point of view. Despite all of this, the SRC is persisting in disrupting the university’s research activities and preventing face-to-face teaching and learning.
We are also disturbed by the insensitive and disrespectful nature of some of the tactics that the SRC is adopting. Yesterday, protesting students disrupted an online presentation by one of our newest members of the academic staff, teaching her first course at UCT. Unfortunately, the SRC redistributed this video via their official UCT SRC Twitter page, resulting in further humiliation for the lecturer. This morning the SRC reneged on their undertaking to allow busses to leave the Health Sciences campus to staff the clinics that we service in townships across greater Cape Town.
I am equally concerned about reports of an alleged incident during the protest activity that allegedly occurred near the South Stop for the UCT Shuttle services where two individuals sustained minor injuries. I have also received complaints of students who feel violated by the protesters who stormed into their rooms without announcement and are thus feeling unsafe. While protesting is an important constitutional right, we should always make sure that our actions do not undermine other people’s rights.
The last seven years have been difficult for our university, and many of our staff and some of the senior students remember when protests resulted in confrontations that resulted, for some, in lasting trauma. My hope is that we do not have a repeat of these confrontations, which is why we are asking staff to exercise their own judgement whether to work from campus, or to work remotely and teach online. Given that this is a volatile situation, we will provide further updates to staff via the Leadership Lekgotla, including guidance on Monday and the rest of next week.
The university remains open and the academic programme continues online. We have vital programmes of research that must continue. After two years of emergency remote teaching, we owe it to all of our students and their families to return to face-to-face teaching and learning wherever possible.
I call on the SRC to meet with the executive, so that we can together go through the list of demands that have been met and find solutions together.
Professor Mamokgethi Phakeng
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