Statement on Protest Action

1. The University recognises and supports its students’ right to organised and peaceful protest on campus in accordance with the rules and protocol that govern such action.

2. The University also honours and protects the rights of all its staff and students to the orderly conduct of the academic programme, without interruption or threat to the safety of persons or property, and to maintain good order on campus.

3. The University would like to remind you of the rules and protocol governing gatherings and protest action, which are in place expressly to ensure good order on campus and to protect the rights of staff and students.

4. Recent incidents on campus confirm the rationale for the above-mentioned rules and protocol and call for a stricter enforcement of these rules in the future.

5. You are reminded of the agreement reached on 8 September 2009. The effect of this agreement is that the Management agreed to postpone the SRC election and that the students undertook to participate in the establishment of a forum for discussions on student governance and the development of a proposal to the University Council in this regard.

6. The agreement does not include any preconditions. In the discussions following the agreement reached to end the protest action of 8 September 2009, the Student Front demanded that a guarantee be given that no disciplinary steps will be taken against students who committed crimes or transgressed institutional rules during the protest action on 8 September 2009. This was set as a precondition to further substantive talks. As stated before, this precondition does not form part of the agreement reached on 8 September 2009.

7. It is confirmed that in respect of any form of disciplinary action against any student, the normal processes have to run their full course and the normal structures have to be involved. It would be inappropriate to discuss the issue of disciplinary charges, decisions or outcomes in a discussion forum that does not have the legal authority to do so. The University can, therefore, give no guarantee as demanded by the Student Front.

8. The University is obliged to consider the interests of all stakeholders in deliberations about the future of student governance and the SRC election. The University therefore insists that the stakeholders should proceed forthwith to discuss all the substantive issues. The University Management gives the guarantee that the constructive talks regarding the future of the SRC will involve all the relevant stakeholders and will receive priority attention.

9. As recognised in the agreement of 8 September 2009, any proposal that flows from the talks or amendment of the current constitution for student governance will have to be submitted to the University Council for approval.

10. During talks on the afternoon of 14 September 2009 it became clear that the action of some students is creating the space for the development of tension between different groups on campus. It is the responsibility of the University Management to create an environment within which all students and staff can proceed with their normal activities. The University will therefore take the necessary steps to ensure the good order of its business. I urge all staff and students to use their good judgment and refrain from any actions that could cause tension and put the good order of the University at risk.

11. A court order was granted on the evening of 14 September 2009 in terms of which all parties have to commit themselves not to engage in further disruptive or provocative behaviour.

Yours faithfully

Prof CR de Beer
Vice-Chancellor and Principal (Acting)

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