On 30 May, an announcement with the new exam rules effective for the June/July examination period was placed on ClickUP. These rules included students having to arrive at the exam venue one hour before the start of the exam paper and not being able to enter an exam venue with bags, but only a “transparent sealable pencil case” or “plastic bag”. Part of the new rules also obliged students to print their examination timetables and present it along with their student cards in order to gain entrance to the exam venue.
In a statement issued on 1 June by SRC acting chairperson Thabo Shingange, the SRC strongly condemned the new exam rules it termed “ridiculous”, calling for a reversal of the decision to implement them. The SRC argued in the statement that UP provides no lockers where student are able to store their belongings, resulting in confusion and worry for students who would not have a safe place outside the exam venue to store their belongings. In a reply to the SRC, UP stated that it would provide a lecture hall (or any other venue) in which students could store their belongings under the watch of security. The SRC said that this would still not dispel the risk of theft or loss of valuables and urged a return to the common practice of leaving bags in front of lecture halls while students write.
Where students have to provide their exam timetable, the SRC termed this a “draconian measure” taking into consideration that many students are financially unsuitable and as yet have not been able to register. Not being able to register would mean that these students would be unable to view and print their timetable. The statement further added, in context of the Fees Must Fall movement, that “to prohibit students from writing exams on a financial basis is a form of financial exclusion, which as the SRC we would like to condemn.”
Due to the meetings held between the SRC and university management, students will now be able to leave their bags in designated secure locations on campus. The top level of the Amphitheatre on Hatfield campus and L8 on Groenkloof campus have been identified as secure locations. For other campuses, students will need to enquire with the Student Administration Office for the campus’s secure location. Should students not want to leave their bags at these secure locations, they may bring bags into venues and store them beneath their seats. These bags are then subject to a search by campus security. Furthermore, no timetables will be required but only student cards. Further, according to a Facebook statement posted on 3 June by the SRC, students facing financial difficulty and are therefore unable to register or pay to replace a lost student card are to contact the CSC for help on a case by case basis.
According to UP spokesperson Anna-Retha Bouwer, the proposed new exam rules announced on 30 May were simply a safety precaution in light of recent threats made on public platforms to disrupt exams.
In February 2015, there was a similar situation regarding new exam rules with students not being allowed to take in bags, handbags or pencil cases into exam venues. Particularly referring to the issue of bags not being allowed into exam venues, then SRC president Mosibudi “Rassie” Rasethaba acknowledged that “part of the rule is ridiculous in that it does not take into consideration [the] socio-economic standing of the students, as it assumes that every student either lives within very close proximity of the university, has a car or lives in [one of the] residences.” This rule, along with the others, were subsequently suspended as well.
Rasethaba said that a verbal agreement was reached on the exam rules between the 2015 SRC and UP management. Rasethaba said that a meeting was convened between himself, the head of legal services, and registrar Prof. Niek Grove in which it was agreed to revert from the new institutional rules to the previous ones. Rasethaba further pointed to an SRC statement in which the SRC expressed that UP management and the SRC had agreed that “until such time as alternative arrangements have been made and a notice to this effect has been communicated to all parties”, students would be able to bring belongings into exam venues.
At that time, a memorandum of understanding (MOU) was reached between UP and the 2015 SRC. With specific reference to belongings students were not allowed to bring into exam venues, the agreement reached was that the rule would be suspended until the end of the 2015 academic year or until such time as alternative methods could be employed in facilitating the enforcement of the rules. The MOU adds that alternative methods may entail the provision of lockers or other storage facilities near test and exam venues, the provision of extra security personnel to ensure possessions left outside exam venues remain secure, or any other method agreed upon by the SRC and UP.