UJ and suspended 'arsonists' at loggerheads

2016-09-15 20:02
(Lizeka Tandwa, News24)

(Lizeka Tandwa, News24)

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Johannesburg - Despite it saying it has met students' demands, the University of Johannesburg (UJ) continues to be at loggerheads with some of the students it suspended following an arson attack at the institution.

On May 16 an arson attack saw the university's Sanlam Auditorium go up in flames, destroying more than 1 000 seats, as well as computer labs housing equipment used to conduct career assessment and guidance for students and prospective students. The damage was estimated at R100m.

The university suspended 17 students for their alleged involvement, blocking their access to the campus pending the outcome of disciplinary hearings.

The university said that it has since amended its decision following an application by five of the students to the Johannesburg High Court seeking urgent relief permitting them free and unimpeded access to the University and all of its campuses, accommodations and facilities.

The judge eventually ruled that the students be granted the relief sought.

According to UJ spokesperson, Herman Esterhuizen, some confusion arose after this.

Guilt cannot be assumed

"To clarify, by granting relief, it appears the judge... understood that the relief being sought was access to the university. While in fact the relief being sought by the five suspended students was a postponement of the University's disciplinary hearings."

In light of this confusion, the University has applied to appeal the decision. The effect of such a notice of appeal is to suspend the operation of any court order until the outcome of the appeal.

He said the university has decided to propose a solution to the students based on the fact that it cannot be assumed that all of the suspended students are guilty.

"It is not the intention of the university to prejudice innocent persons and similarly it is not the intention of the university to place innocent students at the risk of violence and harm," the university said.

The university said it had proposed the following to students:

1. UJ agrees to postpone the disciplinary hearings to a date after the examination process for this academic year is completed;

2. UJ agrees to provide the involved students that were in university accommodation on campus their choice (subject to availability) of accommodation off campus provided by the university's accredited service providers.

3. UJ will meet with each student registered for the second semester together with their academic representative to find ways in which to accommodate and facilitate the accused's academic progress while they are suspended from access to the campus, such as for example:

3.1 providing the suspended students with copies of all lecture notes applicable to their respective classes;

3.2 providing the suspended students with recordings of all lectures applicable to their respective classes;

3.3 providing the suspended students with access to all necessary research material.

'They are lying'

It said it will ensure the affected students are not prejudiced in their ability to continue with their academic year and that it meets its obligations toward its other students and staff.

"Furthermore, this resolves the confusion in the court order and essentially grants the students precisely what they requested in their amended request for relief from the court."

However, one of the suspended students, deputy SRC president Justina Komana, said that this information had not been conveyed to students.

"They are lying. We spent the whole day in court and are back tomorrow again. The university would never make those proposals," she said.

She said the university's proposals are the very same proposals that the students gave the university, but that the university had rejected them.

"They refused us access yesterday even when the judgment was for immediate effect to be allowed on campus. Those benefits they say they gave us are a lie because they rejected them. They were our requests in the beginning of this process. All efforts to speak to them were rejected by the deputy vice chancellor."

Read more on:    uj  |  education  |  university fees

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