The last two weeks on the main campus have been characterised by a tense atmosphere and a number of questions. My office has been inundated with questions about a way forward with respect to both the Student Assembly elections that were put “on hold” on the 8th and possible sanctions against individuals who disrupted classes, intimidated or assaulted people as well as damaged the structures used at the polling stations.
My answer to these questions is three-fold: First I distinguish between the issues which the protesters wanted to highlight and the manner in which they highlighted them. As I always advise people, choosing unconventional tactics to make a point often runs the risk of distracting from the point being made. Focus tends to shift to the means rather than the end and this often renders the effort fruitless. Hence I have consistently promoted a “boardroom” approach to issues which has yielded better fruits in the past four years. We all seem to be at the point of analysing the means right now and have yet to move towards the end.
Secondly, due to the nature of events, starting on 21 August, the Offi ce of the Dean of Students has transferred the issue to the Registrar’s Offi ce. The gripe is of course, about the SRC structure. However, the situation caused by that, outside the boardroom context, becomes the responsibility of the Registrar who is the custodian of the University’s Code of Conduct and related sanctions. The transfer of the matter is in no way meant to signal a judgement on the guilt or innocence of anyone but an acknowledgement that matters of a disciplinary nature are not part of the Dean of Student’s mandate. As such, they cannot be dealt with in the context of discussions about the alternative structure of the SRC. Prior to any decision being taken by the relevant offi ce, the Dean of Students has no answer save to say that the Registrar’s decision will be informed by the evidence presented to him.
Thirdly, the suspension of the election process was both a response to a situation which could have resulted in a racially polarised student body as well as an attempt to create some space for students and the Management to talk about alternatives. At this point in time, focus is still on the preliminaries. We are, at the same time, making arrangements for a multi-party conference (MPC) which will hopefully provide us with an alternative structure for the Council to consider. The sooner we conclude discussions about the preliminaries (which might just be around the corner), the easier it would be to decide on what to do in the interim. Legally, we are bound to have an SRC or some structure in place by the beginning of 2010. I want to thank all who have participated in this year’s election for their patience and understanding. Candidates remain candidates until further notice to the contrary. All ballot boxes remain sealed and are kept safely, and all ballot papers are locked away until a directive is given by the Management of the University.
With best wishes,
Prof McGlory Speckman