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Wits completes lectures for 2016

- Wits University

Message from the Senior Executive Team (09:00):

We write to you today in deep appreciation for your support in enabling Wits University to complete the lecture schedule of the 2016 academic year. 

We know that it has not been an easy journey given the disruptions, criminal acts, intimidation and threats, and the violence. 

We are also acutely aware of, and at times humbled by, the determination of the majority of students and staff who want to learn and work, those who made it to classes, offices and laboratories every day despite the odds. All of you stood firm in the face of adversity and soldiered on to empower others. 

We thank all those who went beyond the call of duty in recent weeks, at all hours, under extremely stressful conditions, for your dedicated service to ensure the conclusion of the academic programme. Your commitment and resilience is recognised. 

Rights and responsibilities

We understand that every member of the Wits community has been affected by the recent events on our campuses be it through experiencing trauma, hurt or anxiety. The rights of many students and staff were violated and we have taken a decision to hold accountable those responsible for these cowardly acts. 

We acknowledge that the majority of members of the University community support a fairer fee dispensation and that it is only a very small minority who have acted violently. This applies to students, members of staff and employees of outsourced service providers who perform acts of violence on campus. Increasingly it has become clear that for this group, violence is an end in itself. 

The University’s normal rules make provision for individuals who are unable to write exams for good reason and these individual may apply for deferments from their respective faculty. 

Completion of 2016 lectures

The decisions that we made have had implications for the entire University community. We did the best with the information that we had at hand, and we recognise that we didn’t always get it right. 

We know that there are times when we let you down, when our security didn’t hold, or when events didn’t always go according to plan. We apologise for these lapses. 

However, despite these shortcomings, we have collectively succeeded in completing the lecture schedule for the 2016 academic programme. While the first day or two of the resumption of the academic programme resulted in significant disruption, the lecture programme consistently improved since then with the result that, overall, only a small proportion of our lectures and tests were disrupted. These have subsequently been addressed by schools and faculties. 

This, together with our decision to extend the academic year by two weeks, allows us to comfortably conclude the lectures on the firm knowledge that despite some of the disruptions, the substantive content and skills of our academic programme have been duly imparted. 

If we hadn’t persevered in this regard, we would have had to shut down the University with disastrous consequences for the 37 000 students and thousands of our staff. It would have created enormous problems for those who desperately need to graduate, for those passing to the next year, for those that need to access the labour market and for those on financial aid, scholarships and bursaries. 

It would also have compromised admissions next year for the thousands of students in schools who would want to come to Wits and other universities. 

Our decision to persevere was not only in the interests of the majority of our students and staff, but also of the country as a whole.

 

Examinations go ahead as planned

Our next challenge is to ensure that our examination period runs successfully, and we will once again need the assistance of all academics, professional and administrative staff and students to see it through without incident. 

We have developed comprehensive security plans for the examinations and all of which will be written with the appropriate security protocols in place. 

Details of the examination programme will be distributed this afternoon from the Office of the Registrar and by the respective Faculty Registrars. 

Please ensure that you access your Wits email for important updates and stay in touch with your faculty and school. 

We want to assure all students that you are entitled to write examinations even if you have outstanding fees. 

There are very specific rules that govern our examination processes. The examination schedule is not decided by any single individual. 

It is approved by all of the appropriate structures in the University, including the Faculty boards and the Senate.

This decision-making process is governed by legislation, including the Statute of the University. 

All of these academic governance structures have decided to continue with the examinations with the appropriate levels of security. We believe that this is in the interests of the majority of students. 

Security and police on campus

We have no choice but to continue with security on our campuses. This is not an ideal situation. 

However, we have repeatedly said that if student leaders and protestors commit publicly to no disruption of the academic programme, no destruction of property and no violence and intimidation of students and staff, we will remove private security and the police from our campuses. 

Access to education and engagement with students

The issues pertaining to the underfunding and transformation of the higher education sector remain, and these are matters that can only be resolved by the state at the national level. 

As an institution, however, we remain committed to engaging with students, staff, the state, the private sector, civil society and other social actors to tackle underfunding and transformation, while completing the examinations and the 2016 academic year. 

We remain committed to the pledge we made in recent weeks in this regard. 

Conclusion

We will endeavour to do all that we can to ensure that we successfully conclude this year but we need your full support to reach our collective goals. We thank you for your continued commitment in this regard.

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