The SRC argues that every student should be given the right to a fair examination and fair conditions for exam preparation, but that “this principle is not in effect currently as arguably others are at a disadvantage from the decisions and implications by the university”. The SRC raised concerns that students were negatively affected by the closing of study centres, and library services, that residence students were in a better position for exam preparation due to the facilities available at a residence. They are also concerned that students who were suspended but not given a hearing date were now allowed to write exams but were not “in a position to write” because they did not have access to the university, and that there were students who were not protesting but were negatively affected by the protests.
The SRC appealed to UP to considering deferring exams as a matter of urgency, and said that deferred exams must be viewed as assisting students to perform better in exams, and that while UP does not use deferred exams, other universities had implemented a system of deferring exams. According to the SRC, UP’s institutional rules that make provisions for unforeseen circumstances to be considered support their appeal.
This follows after the SRC met with UP management on Friday, 11 November, to discuss the possibility of deferring exams. Students approached the SRC regarding concerns of readiness for exams due to “recent developments and setbacks”. After a meeting with SRC sub-councils and “some members of the [Fees Must Fall] movement”, the SRC was tasked with advancing the issues of exam deferrals to UP management, according to a post on the UP SRC’s Facebook page posted on 10 November. The SRC was also tasked with following up with UP management to allow students who had been suspended, but who had not yet received hearings, to be allowed to write exams as “this would constitute an illegal act to deny a student examination having not found a student guilty of anything yet”. The SRC plan to discuss the engagement of UP management with the memorandum received by UP on 26 September, and for UP to provide solutions to the matters addressed.
On 11 November, the SRC suggested the idea of exam deferment to UP management as “an option for those students who have been affected negatively by the demonstrations and the new online system of the university”. They further said that engagements were in process and it was to the benefit of every student to write exams under fair conditions and practices. The SRC was working on a model for the deferment of exams that will be handed to UP management as a matter of urgency, and that surveys were conducted by “movements and organisations” to determine the exact number of students affected. The UP SRC account further said, “No student should be compromised due to the recent developments of the past seven weeks.”
UP Fees Must Fall (FMF) held a press conference on 11 November where they addressed their stance on exams. They said that UP should have probed the readiness and effectiveness of the hybrid [learning] system to determine whether students were ready for exams. According to the statement, UP had engaged every student group except FMF and that the current shutdown was enforced by UP and not students. FMF condemned the “limiting of access to campus” saying that it had led to essential facilities including library services, student health services, computer facilities, and student support services being unavailable to students. It was further stated that the “alternative measures imposed by the university are impractical, anti-poor, and anti-black”, adding that the systems used by UP were detrimental to those “dependent on these very crucial resources”, and that this had negatively affected students’ academic progress and would “inevitably lead to mass academic exclusions come January 2017”. The FMF press conference also discussed the lack of contact sessions with lecturers. It said that students who did not have contact sessions would be unable “to efficiently grasp the large volume of work presented to them through the e-learning system”, and said that fees had been paid by students for contact lectures, not the current distance learning system.
FMF further claimed that the “militarisation” of UP and the “extreme police brutality by the SAPS” had psychologically affected students, who were unable to deal with this trauma as students are unable to access student support services. They called on UP to defer exams to January for students “impacted by the university’s shutdown”, and said that failure by UP to address the issue would lead to unsatisfactory exam results.
On 13 November, FMF released a statement saying that UP will allow suspended students to write exams, on the condition that “they sign an agreement in which they make an undertaking not to disrupt examinations”, and that suspended students could only write exams if they had met requirements for exam admission, meaning that none of the students would be able to write exams as they had been suspended seven weeks ago and had missed out on the academic programme. [MJS1] FMF claimed that UP had acted in bad faith and that UP has conspired to exclude students “that they deem as unreasonable protesters”.
FMF conducted a survey that was intended to receive feedback from students regarding their stance on the deferment of exams. The survey was available on their Facebook page, and was open from 12 November to 13 November. According to a statement released by FMF regarding the survey, 1419 students participated in the survey, which required participants to use their Gmail login details and submit their student numbers to ensure that only UP students participated in the survey. The survey found that 83.9% of participating students felt that their academic progress had been affected by UP’s e-learning system and recent protests. It also found that 59.8% of students were in favour of deferring their exams to January 2017. According to the statement, the number of students who participated in the survey were “just a fraction of the total number of registered students at the University of Pretoria, but 849 students calling for deferral is sufficient cause for alarm.” FMF further submitted that UP should put measures in place to allow students who were not adequately prepared for exams in November to write their exams in January. The FMF account said on Twitter that their stance towards the deferral of exams is that it should be for to those who need it, but should not be compulsory. According to a UP spokesperson, exams at UP are continuing, as communicated with students.