We're expecting more campus protests in 2017‚ says UCT's Max Price

20 December 2016 - 11:57 By Dave Chambers

University of Cape Town (UCT) head Max Price expects more campus protests in 2017‚ warning that it is impossible to negotiate with fees campaigners who are determined to close several major universities indefinitely.

“I am certain there will be protests‚” Price tells Cape Town advocate Andrew Brown in a Daily Maverick interview on Tuesday.

“And if students choose to use unlawful means to force their demands on the university and are not willing to negotiate peacefully‚ then we will need to bring in private security and police. I would like it to be otherwise but that is in the hands of the protest leaders.”

However‚ Price says he is optimistic that a settlement negotiated with student groups on the eve of exams — which passed off peacefully — would lead to constructive discussions on points of conflict rather than disruptive protests.

  • 'Don't be the Neville Chamberlain of UCT': An open letter to UCT's Dr Max PriceAfter a month of shutdown‚ the University of Cape Town opened its doors again this week only to witness classes being disrupted‚ protests by students and stun grenades let off in response.

Responding to criticism that UCT negotiated too openly with groups that had resorted to violence‚ Price says: “The point is surely‚ you negotiate with people you don’t agree with‚ to resolve conflict in ways other than through the use of force.

“As a leader in the university and in society‚ I believe I am role-modelling how I think conflict should be dealt with: through discussion … and through exhausting all other avenues before resorting to force.”

Price says the biggest challenge in talks that led to agreement was “multiple factions within the student protest movement with overlapping‚ but different‚ priorities”.

  • Chaos erupts at UCTViolence broke out at the University of Cape Town on Tuesday as protesters clashed with security‚ used trolleys as battering rams and pelted security guards in riot gear with rubbish bins.

Having found common ground on the national campaign for free education‚ the establishment of an Institutional Reconciliation and Transformation Commission and financial exclusions at UCT‚ “there remained a single obstacle to an agreement‚ namely the question of whether the expelled students could resume their studies”.

In the end‚ UCT agreed that clemency or amnesty could be granted to those who signed a declaration acknowledging what they had done and undertaking not to do it again.

He says: “We had to weigh up the consequences of not reaching an agreement‚ with the very high risks of not writing exams and not completing the academic year‚ affecting tens of thousands of individuals‚ against conceding that 12 individuals that should be allowed back on campus.”

  • UCT will withdraw ‘offers of amnesty if disruptions continue’The University of Cape Town (UCT) has warned that it will take “offers of amnesty” off the negotiating table “if disruptions continue and full university activities are prevented from resuming”.

The concession that allowed the students back “is not a licence to impunity. It is an alternative approach to retributive justice – namely restorative justice.”

Price says in many ways UCT has had one of its best years. “We produced more research papers than ever before in our history. Our research contracts – reflecting the confidence outside clients and sponsors have in the quality and capacity of our research teams – crossed the R1-billion mark and exceeded 2014/5’s level by 30%.

“The impact of our research reached an all-time high if measured by the number of times UCT research was cited by other scientists. UCT medical research is the largest recipient of US National Institutes of Health funding anywhere in the world outside the USA.

“Last week we were awarded a prestigious Wellcome Centre of Excellence for research in infection diseases – the only one of 11 awarded that is outside the UK.”

– TMG Digital/The Times