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Letters from concerned students, staff and parents

- Wits University

Following the suspension of University activities, Wits has received hundreds of emails and calls:

The University has received hundreds of emails and calls from students and parents, the majority of whom are concerned, angry and anxious about the future of the University, and who want classes to resume. This is following the announcement that all University activities will be suspended until further notice. Many people are afraid to air their views publicly as they do not want to be harassed or do not want to put their children in harm’s way.

We have published a selection of the responses below to provide an indication of the views of the silent majority. We have removed all names but have not changed the content of their responses. Feel free to share your views anonymously via vco.news@wits.ac.za |Also read the full response from the Senior Executive Team.

LETTERS:

4th YEAR ACCOUNTING STUDENT

I write this email to you as an extremely concerned 4th year Accounting Science student. After having received the last email from SET which states that there is a possibility that the university may be closed, I felt that I had to write you as the acting VC on behalf of all of the students who are not part of the FMF 2016 protest. 

Over the past, I have waited patiently for the protest to end and was careful not to infringe upon the rights of the students who want to protest to do so. However, it seems as though this protest could possibly lead to final exams not being written this year. I am in my final year of studies and as you can imagine, I cannot afford to not write my final exams this year and in a timely manner. I have to write my ITC (as per SAICA requirements) next year in January and SAICA will most probably not move the dates to accommodate Wits students as they have a set program. 

At this point, even though I feel ashamed to even request this of you, could you please ask for military intervention from the government to make sure that the academic program is re-instated as soon as possible. I am begging. I have to pass this year and start my training next year towards qualifying as a CA(SA) to make a better life for my family. As a young African female, I'm sure you understand that my family has sacrificed a lot in order for me to be at Wits for these past 4 years. I cannot bear to let them down now.

Please do consider stricter police control or even military intervention if necessary. The academic program must be re-instated as soon as possible.

2nd YEAR BA STUDENT

I wish to express my concern about the present situation at Wits and whether the academic activities will resume in time to complete the syllabus. My greatest concern however is for the final exams whether we will be able to write them in time as I live overseas with my parents, and need to book my tickets in advance. Please advise as to when academic activities will resume, and if not, as to whether we will be writing our final exams or not.

4th YEAR STUDENT

I am one of the few students that cannot afford to lose this time due to the protests. I have worked 4 years to be where I am and I want to finish my degree this year. I want to do my honours but I fear this will hinder my chances. This is the last chance I have to do the best I can. I am willing to go to lectures or write tests and exams in company parking lots or board rooms if need be. I don't know if this has been considered but I am sure many companies wouldn't mind helping out for those who want to carry on.

PART-TIME STUDENT

I am a student, in the WitsPlus department, and would like to enquire about a petition for students who would like to return to classes.

I am heartbroken by the destruction and violence on campus, and as a Witsie, who is proud to be part of such a prestigious university, I would like to encourage the university to spread a petition. I guarantee that the numbers would surprise you. 

I would love to return to the regular schedule, and to complete my year of study, as I am sure many other students would too. 

Please could we find a way to alleviate the stress and panic associated to these strikes, as many students who share my sentiments do not support the protesting students and their violence. 

I stand in full support of Wits University, and would love to continue my studies as soon as possible. And I would like to add that I know that I will be a proud member of the Wits alumni, and will uphold the university's name in the future. I stand with Wits!

STUDENT

Please consider some of us who want to make a better life for ourselves. This is detrimental to our education and future.

STUDENT

Well done to capitulating to the mob…and so the loud minority are set to get their way. A 1000 thugs…close down a campus of 30 000+…Where is law and order @WitsUniversity?

FIRST YEAR STUDENT

I am one of the students who would really want the academic programme to continue as soon as possible. It is very sad to see our very own students going beyond a protest into an extremely violent environment.

I hope that the University makes plans to ensure that the academic programme finishes on time and examinations run normally as well as re-assuring all the Wits students that the University and its workers are to be highly respected for what they hold as educators.

Most of all, make the students aware of the fact that their current studies are important for their future regardless for the fight for free education. They also need to respect the tertiary education that they are being given at this time.

PARENT

My son is currently doing his third year and daughter a postgraduate degree at Wits University and I am deeply concerned that the continued student protests and threat of the university not reopening anytime soon, will negatively impact on them passing this academic year. I strongly believe that everybody has a right to express their views, however it should never be to the detriment of one else. Many students only have one opportunity to study and will never get this opportunity again.

It is rather unfortunate that we do not have an effective and decisive leadership in this country, however the Constitution should still protect us even when leadership fails us. These students should not be allowed to infringe on the rights of others. Would there be a way to approach the public protector and if so, how can this be done?

To date students and parents with opposing views have been rather silent and I feel that if we collectively stand up and say enough is enough, perhaps we could put an end to this nonsense. Education is the only way in which we can emancipate ourselves from the cycle of poverty and inequities of the past.

These students should direct their anger and frustration where it is needed.

PARENT

I understand the reasons for the protest, but the manner of protest is unacceptable, and the Wits Executive must take equal responsibility due to their lack of appropriate response.  

For the violent mob breaking the law, every effort should be made to have them identified, arrested immediately, prosecuted, and receive a criminal record (which will follow them their whole life, affect their visits to foreign countries, deny them the potential of living in foreign lands), and possibly a jail term. This will discourage students from following the same violent action this time next year. They must learn that there are consequences to their actions! At the moment they can do as they please.

Where in this country is it acceptable to assault citizens, speak hate speech, destroy property, intimidate and threaten individuals – certainly at Wits. Why are these law-breaking protestors not being arrested? Why are they not being prosecuted? Why are these particular students immune to the laws governing our land?

What about the rights of the remaining law-abiding students? Where is the protection of their rights, to peaceful protest, to an education, to write their exams this year, who have paid an exorbitant amount in fees, who want to graduate, who want to work next year? How can Wits allow their rights to be trampled? Why is the University capitulating to the dictates of a violent minority? Why is the response so weak?

The University must be reopened immediately and the enforcement of the rule of law strictly applied.  Advise protestors that if they break the law then they will be arrested, that Wits will lay charges, and that they may land up with criminal records, jail time, and how this will follow them throughout their life and to all corners of the world. The rule of law must be applied and be seen to be applied.

PARENT 

I am writing in my capacity as a parent of two Wits students. I find the closure of the University extremely disappointing and disturbing. We are in the same position as last year where a violent minority are terrorising everyone else. I am very surprised that the University was not better prepared this year and that it is so simple for a few intimidating thugs to bring the whole University to a halt. Did we not anticipate another fees must fall protest? By capitulating so readily, we are promoting the culture of "break and burn". These students are learning to behave like spoilt children who throw tantrums to control everyone else. What happened to a mature University culture of tolerance and mutual respect?  These students do not understand the idea of peaceful protest or permitting different points of view. They have learned to use violence to get their own way and we are letting them get away with it. The same people who were the instigators last year are at the fore front again. Why do we permit this? These individuals have learned to manipulate the whole situation for their own personal political ends. They are in no way representative of the vast majority of students, but because they are intimidating we all stand aside. It is very concerning to see how readily a few dozen can disrupt the whole institution…I trust that the situation will be resolved urgently and that Wits will have proper plans in place for the next round. 

PARENT/ACADEMIC

What about exams? Our students need to write. How many of our 35 000 students want to finish? How can we suspend everything? How many students actually support this indefinite closure? Why is the University not canvassing students’ opinions through a survey? This news of indefinite closure is very perturbing and I write as a staff member and a concerned parent.

PARENT

As a parent (and an ex Witsie) I am deeply concerned for the "Silent majority". Most of the registered students are at university with the goal of obtaining a degree. They are keen to attend class, and would like to write tests and exams on the specified dates. THEY HAVE RIGHTS TOO - the right to attend class without fear of victimisation, the right to write tests and the right to support their own cause - which is to graduate… Is there a plan in place for the exam sessions, as we would like to know when exams are going to be written?

PARENT

It is most important that you determine what percentage of your students are involved in the protest or alternatively are unhappy about the fees issue and consequently determine which percentage of students are happy and eager to proceed with their studies as is and is in fact fed-up with the protests of the minority. You must have all students’ cell numbers. Take a referendum with 2 of 3 simple questions to determine this figure. If it is indeed only a small percentage then take severe action against them for the good of the majority of students and the good name of Wits. If it is not a mere minority but indeed a large component of the students that are unhappy then you have a problem which you will have to manage accordingly.

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