Mon Oct 24 12:35:36 SAST 2016

Alumni Judith February garners support for #Save UCT campaign

TMG Digital | 19 October, 2016 13:58
University of Cape Town (UCT) students sing during protests demanding free tertiary education. File photo

Judith February‚ who graduated in law from the University of Cape Town‚ has gained 323 supporters in a day with an online petition called "#SaveUCT: Open our university and stop the violence!"

February‚ who is a senior research associate at the Institute for Security Studies (ISS) and affiliated to the UCT Graduate School of Development Policy and Practice‚ wrote an open letter on behalf of Concerned UCT Alumni and addressed her petition on to the chair of the UCT Council Sipho Pityana and Vice Chancellor Dr Max Price.

"We write as alumni who have been watching the situation at UCT unfold with a deep sense of frustration‚ sadness and also anger‚" she says.

"As concerned and engaged citizens we have seen the #Feesmustfall movement start as a protest against university fees and then later increasingly infiltrated by what we believe to be a criminal element.

"In addition‚ we have witnessed the destruction of university property‚ the torching of the Vice Chancellor’s office‚ the burning of artwork and the abominable act of throwing human faeces around. As outsiders to the situation it seems very little has been done to hold the wrongdoers to account. It also seems as if the university has bent over backwards to accommodate the protesters’ ever-growing and often unrealistic demands."

February noted that free higher education is not the university’s to give‚ it is the role of the State. "In our view it is also not possible to ‘decolonise’ entire curricula overnight although we believe universities are the right places to discuss such transformation initiatives. On the basis of these two demands alone‚ UCT could be shut down for months if not years. They simply cannot be solved immediately even with the best will in the world. They are far too complex."

The university has been closed for almost a month.

". . .It is fundamentally undemocratic for a small group to hold an entire university hostage.

". . .Given the unacceptable violence of the past two days‚ we do not believe that the protesting students are seeking solutions in good faith."

The petition urges UCT to reopen with additional security so that exams can be written and not to negotiate with those who engage or have engaged in violence and criminal action.

No amnesty should be given to those who have been involved in violent activity‚ she states.

"UCT needs to take a firm stance against the minority trying to destroy a fine institution. If this academic year is lost‚ 2017 will be too."

Supporters of the petition include Shamiel Essop‚ who shared: "Students need to return to UCT to complete their studies".

Cherri McHelm commented "the blatant disregard for other students‚ the disrespect shown to lecturers and staff who have been more than accommodating of protesters' right to air their views is appalling".

". . .There has been plenty of talking and engaging and all the protesters do is come up with more ridiculous demands. Enough is enough. Time to take a stand and take back control of UCT‚" Terg Hart posted‚ while Marc Falconer said: "This protest is not thought through and mis-placed and is also now out of control".


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