Don't destroy your futures, Max Price tells protesting students

2016-09-28 19:18
Max Price (Netwerk24)

Max Price (Netwerk24)

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Cape Town - University of Cape Town Vice Chancellor Max Price has urged protesting Fees Must Fall students not to jeopardise their futures.

Price told reporters in Cape Town on Wednesday that the university was still willing to engage with students whose protests have led to the university closing its campuses.

"Many people accuse us of capitulating to small groups of students, when it seems the vast majority want to stay at work and come to class," he said.

"We've done different polls in some faculties that show 80-90% of students want to stay in class. 'So, why are we being held hostage?' they ask."

Keeping universities open, he said, would require large volumes of private security, as the police could only act in cases where there was a crime or an immediate threat to property or life.

Bringing private security onto campus was a last resort and the university would rather attempt to negotiate with student protesters in good faith, he said.

"There are many good justifications for more affordable education, for wanting free education for the poor, for wanting to make universities less alienating and more welcoming, and for curriculum reform.

'Not interested in destroying futures'

"But what isn't justified is the method of closing the university, because of the dire consequences."

He said the university spent an average of R1m a month to protect the campus at the height of the protests last year.

"Fortunately, we've spent almost none at the moment," he added.

- Earlier today: UCT closes campus after staff 'traumatised'

Price said the university had invited five expelled students to meet with management and discuss their futures.

"We are not interested in destroying their careers or making this a life sentence," he said.

"If they could participate in some reconciliation process, then we would be open to reconsidering a restorative process at some stage to continue their careers."

Thousands 'frustrated'

The five were expelled following the "Shackville" protests in February for offences ranging from assault, invading offices and residences, intimidating residences, burning university property and paintings, and disrupting the core business of the university.

Price said not all of the five had accepted the invitation and that any future meeting would be up to them to initiate.

"If that's going to be the continued approach [aggression], I don't see a way of the students coming back to campus.

"It needs to go through the process. Essentially, that's what we're offering."

Price said UCT's SRC did not support the call for a student shutdown. He said tens of thousands of students were feeling "enormously frustrated" at the prospect of not completing the academic year.

Were the protests to be pushed into a third and fourth week, the university could be closed until 2017, he said.

- Read more: UCT could close for the year if protests continue - Max Price

Read more on:    uct  |  max price  |  cape town  |  university fees  |  university protests
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