Students, campus political societies and the general public have alleged that UP applies a 60-40 quota that works to the disadvantage of non-white students. According to the university, these allegations are false.
Dr Matete Madiba, the director of Student Affairs, said that people have a wrong interpretation of the quota system. “There is no quota at the university that states that in whatever context there has to be 60% representation of white people and 40% non-white [people at the university]. It is a huge misinterpretation of the university’s constitution and this is causing unnecessary conflict,” she said.
According to chapter 4 of the Constitution for Student Governance at UP, at least 40% of the members elected for each of the faculties must be female and at least 40% must be male. This guideline also applies to racial quotas. There is no rule that strictly states that 60% of students must be white and 40% non-white.
However, the 60-40 quota may abide in a situation whereby a minimum of 40% has been reached in a specific racial representation. Dr Madiba continued to say that last year’s Student Representative Council (SRC) was a good and clear representation of this guideline because it included both male and female students and met the minimum requirement of 40% in each race.
Furthermore, the equality clause of chapter 2 of the constitution, which is the Bill of Students Rights, stipulates that “all students are entitled to equal treatment and protection as provided for in the regulations of the University of Pretoria”.
AfriForum Youth UP chairperson Barend Taute and the DASO branch leader Mathew Cuthbert both agreed that the 60-40 quota exists. Both societies believe that it is unfair and that nothing should be based on skin colour but rather on academic merit.
Taute said, “We are not in favour of the 60-40 quota and it should be removed. As an institution, we must strive for equality.” Cuthbert said that there should be “no quotas at all” as this always results in the marginalisation of a certain group. “The university should be in consultation with political societies when it comes to such things,” he said.
Phakamile Mohoto, the chairperson of COPE@Tuks, added that the quota does not represent the true demographics of South Africa as a whole and that it is mostly prevalent in the university’s residences. “Why is it that we have to conform to racial means of classification? Why must other people have the ‘upper’ hand in regards to this quota? Why is the university not being transparent when it comes to such issues?” he asked.
According to the university’s 2011 policy for residence placement, the minimum quota for first-year black students is 43%. Prospective students with an APS of 33 and higher are placed in res on an ongoing basis from April/May of the previous year. First years are placed according to the quota system until the end of January, after which allocation is based on supply and demand.
Academic merit is the determining factor for the placement and re-admission of senior students. A minimum average of 50% is needed to qualify for res but students with an average of 55% and higher are given preferance. Although seniors are placed on academic merit, there must be a minimum of 40% of either racial group.
Dr Madiba said that the biggest misconception is that political societies and students are misinformed when it comes to the guiding principle of the quota. She advises everyone to read the Constitution of Student Governance. She continued to say that the Department of Student Affairs is working on improving communication with students through its website. “The logic behind this criteria is to ensure that representation is equitable and it doesn’t serve one group only. The playing field has to be equal,” she said.
On 8 April, AfriForum held a media briefing in front of the Client Service Centre and made available the results of a referendum on racial profiling at UP. Dr Madiba and the deputy director of Student Affairs Dr Willem Jorissen were present.
The referendum was regarding the question: “Should racial classification be used by UP?” Among the 2 033 students who were interviewed, 97% declared that they do not want to be racially classif?ied.
The memorandum, which was handed over to Dr Madiba, stated that the admission to faculties, especially the faculties of Health and Veterinary Sciences, should be granted only on and in order of merit. Prospective students should not have to indicate their race during the application process and race should not be used as a determining factor for the allocation of bursaries that are awarded directly by UP to students. It further stated that the quota for house committees should be changed from five quota members per committee to two in order to gradually free residences from racial profiling.
Dr Madiba said that she will look into the findings of the referendum and further communicate these to management.
Taute said, “The survey is positive confirmation that students are tired of being held back by the past. Students from all races want racial classification to be abolished and they want to be classified according to merit.” He also said that the university must stop being used by the ANC as a political playing field for implementing racial classifications at Tuks.
Photos: Oan de Waal