Dear parents, guardians and sponsors
I realise that many of you may be anxious about the disruptions on UCT’s campuses over the past few days. While the executive remains committed to engagement with protesters in our continuing efforts to resolve issues, we condemn the disruptions and attempts to shut the university down as completely unacceptable.
After a mass meeting in the Memorial Hall on Tuesday, 24 October, protesters disrupted a number of lectures across campus before presenting their memorandum of demands at the Bremner building. Members of the Senior Executive Task Team (SETT) initiated a meeting with members of the Students’ Representative Council and protest leaders on Tuesday evening to discuss the demands.
We indicated that some of the demands were already being addressed, or were in the process of being addressed, and emphasised our continued commitment to try to resolve the issues. Some demands, however, were outside the scope of the executive’s ability, eg the release of the Fees Commission report. We have made it clear that we are fully behind the call for President Jacob Zuma to release the Fees Commission report.
During the meeting, further demands were listed to which we could simply not immediately respond, including a call for the entire institution to be shut down on Wednesday, 25 October 2017, for a march to parliament.
In light of the disruptions to academic operations on Tuesday, including the unlawful disruption of laboratories that typically house dangerous materials, and the indications that disruptions would continue, we took the decision to secure the services of a private security company to safeguard high-risk venues on campus. The private security firm is assisting Campus Protection Services (CPS) in securing buildings and monitoring the situation. The South African Police Service (SAPS) and Public Order Police have also been on campus, monitoring the situation.
Although the campus remained open on Wednesday, 25 October, protesters continued with disruptions on campus. Even with private security and police assistance, the UCT executive was still not satisfied that it could guarantee a peaceful environment in which classroom learning could take place, so on Thursday, 26 October we took the decision to suspend face-to-face classes for that day and the following day, Friday, 27 October, on the main campus, lower campus and Hiddingh campus. This excluded the Faculty of Health Sciences and the Graduate School of Business. On Friday, despite relative peace on campus following a Senate resolution on Thursday to have a campus-wide meeting to discuss free education, uncertainty with respect to the possibility of continuing unlawful conduct led to a decision to continue with online learning.
The UCT executive is still not satisfied that it can guarantee a peaceful environment in which classroom learning can take place and has extended the suspension of face-to-face lectures on main, middle, lower and Hiddingh campuses on Monday, 30 October 2017 and Tuesday, 31 October 2017.
Over the course of the next two days, course conveners will do their best to ensure that all learning material is delivered through other means, including blended and online learning. Course conveners will also communicate if and how assessments and tests will be conducted, and whether practicals and tutorials will proceed as normal or in varied formats. Some teaching may continue off campus. Please note that the university remains open, with the majority of operations continuing. The libraries will be open and the Jammie Shuttle service will be operational.
The executive is continuing to engage with the SRC in an attempt to reach agreement to resume regular classroom teaching without disruption.
Regardless of how long classes are shifted to other modes of teaching and learning, we are determined that the exams in November will take place as planned and that we can provide the necessary security, as and when required.
Let me emphasise again that the key considerations at this point are to ensure the safety of students and staff and minimising the stressful impact of the disruptions on staff and students, while offering alternative options to ensure the completion of the academic year and the exams.
Please be assured that there is full commitment to successfully finishing the academic programme over the next two weeks, and sticking to the exams schedule as published.
Dr Max Price
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In a statement to UCT students, Vice-Chancellor Dr Max Price said:
“I wish no student to be ignorant about what constitutes unlawful protest behaviour.
Disruption of classes, blocking of entrances or exits, interfering with traffic flow, putting up barricades that prevent people from conducting normal business or attending classes, and any form of intimidation – whether physical or verbal – is unlawful.”