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Message from acting Vice-Chancellor

- By Wits University

Message from the acting Vice-Chancellor, Professor Andrew Crouch.

Dear Colleagues and Students

I am aware that many staff members were affected in multiple ways during the student protests that took place in the last two days. We are aware that students have started protesting again this morning and have blocked some entrances. The Senior Executive Team and I are working to clear these entrances.

I have had reports of intimidation, the vandalism of vehicles, altercations involving staff and students and more generally a frustration at not being able to move freely on campus.

I would like to personally apologise to each and every one who was affected by the protest. The illegal protest was a violation of your rights as staff members of the University and as citizens of this country. Your safety and security is paramount and we will do whatever is in our power to ensure that you remain safe and sound.

We have received criticism from many quarters, and especially from staff who were prevented from leaving. I would like to explain our responses in four areas.

  1. The original protest was planned to run from 12:00 – 14:00 yesterday but students started the illegal sit-in from 07:00. This was unexpected and we had to deal with the situation on the ground in order to try to calm the situation. The decision was thus made to suspend lectures for the day.  
  2. This protest action followed a sit-in at the Wits Business School on Tuesday night where students were demonstrating against Wits’ expansion plans in Parktown which would see PKV2 shutting down. This was a peaceful protest and a memorandum was handed over which was accepted.
  3. We tried negotiating with the student leaders and others throughout the day in order to try to reach an amicable solution. We felt that tensions would be heightened if we called in the police. We also issued a warning to students that if the behaviour continued we would take swifter action today and institute our disciplinary and other processes. The full text of the statement is available at www.wits.ac.za   
  4. It did take us some time to determine what an appropriate response would be and to communicate this to staff and students. We consulted with Senate and Council who overwhelmingly supported our stance and in some instances encouraged a more forceful approach.

This morning we have commissioned additional security at all the gates and have the police on stand-by if they are required. We cannot allow the rights of 32 500 students and 5 000 staff to be violated by a group of 300 – 500 students.  

The Vice-Chancellor is currently at the Higher Education Transformation Summit in Durban where a key session will focus on finding solutions to issues around student finance. We are confident that this national conversation will contribute towards addressing the long-term solutions to this critical problem. 

We appeal for your support and patience as we manage this very difficult, delicate situation. We thank you for your loyalty and commitment to Wits.  Once again, I apologise to all those who were affected by the protest action.

We will keep you updated as the day progresses.

Prof. Andrew Crouch

Acting Vice-Chancellor and Principal

Wits University

15 October 2015

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