MAXINE TWADDLE

Students who face disciplinary action by the University of Pretoria will be able to seek the assistance of the Student Disciplinary Advisory Panel (SDAP).

According to Jordan Griffiths, who holds the Student Representative Council portfolio for Justice and Constitution, the SDAP is “a body aimed at protecting the interests of accused students” . Griffiths told Perdeby that he is in the process of establishing the SDAP as a service provider in terms of the Constitution for Student Governance.

The SDAP will thus become an authorised university structure under the control of the SRC.

According to Griffiths, the SDAP will prove invaluable to UP students. Staffed by students of the Faculty of Law, the SDAP will ensure that the rights of students facing disciplinary action are upheld. The law students who are consulted may not represent the student in his or her hearing, but will advise the student on what to expect. Students will therefore be able to prepare themselves adequately for any disciplinary action taken against them.

The SDAP will differ from the Constitutional Tribunal, in that it only prepares students for disciplinary procedures. The Constitutional Tribunal, on the other hand, is directly involved in the proceedings. Thus, any interaction on their part with a student would be a conflict of interest.

Wesley Timm, Chief Justice of the Constitutional Tribunal, explained that the Constitutional Tribunal’s role in a disciplinary procedure is to make “the committee [see] the matter from a student’s perspective, making it easier for a student to put his point across.” Timm told Perdeby that he is happy with the work of the SDAP leadership, and is pleased that it has the support of the SRC.

Although beneficial to students, the SDAP will only work to the best of its potential when it is incorporated as a service provider, said SDAP Director, Prosper Nkala.

Nkala told Perdeby that there have been “fears of the SDAP causing legal liability to the university.” Nkala continued that the duties of the SDAP have been clearly defined, and thus cannot interfere with disciplinary proceedings. The current disciplinary procedure at the university allows for the accused student to be assisted by a parent or legal guardian. If the university appoints a third person to pursue charges against the student, the student is allowed legal representation, but not at UP’s expense.

In a disciplinary hearing, students are allowed to defend themselves after the charges against them have been explained. The hearing is presided over by the Disciplinary Committee (DC) which consists of UP’s legal representative, an academic staff member of the university, and a representative of the Constitutional Tribunal.

The members of the DC vote to decide the verdict of the hearing. If the vote is not unanimous, the majority’s decision applies. If the votes are equal, the Chairperson of the DC casts the deciding vote.

According to UP’s rules and regulations, students may face disciplinary action for plagiarism, any form of discrimination, bringing the name of the university into disrepute, damaging UP property, and using illegal substances on campus.

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