UCT test concession for Rocking the Daisies festival a 'parade of white privilege'

The University of Cape Town's upper campus. (iStock)
The University of Cape Town's upper campus. (iStock)

Cape Town – Questions have been raised over the decision by a University of Cape Town philosophy lecturer to allow students to miss a test that was scheduled at the same time as the Rocking the Daisies music festival in Darling, as long as they could prove they had booked their tickets "well in advance".

A screenshot of the notification by Dr Tom Angier was widely shared on social media, with outraged students demanding to know why the same compassion was not applied to more serious cases.

Angier’s notification stated: "Owing to the unusual term structure this year, there is a clash between the second test on October 6 and Rocking the Daisies. If you can supply evidence of having booked the festival well in advance, you will be excused attendance at the test, and your other course work will count more towards your final result. You must bring such evidence to Philosophy reception and fill out the usual form[s]."

Following an uproar, UCT spokesperson Elijah Moholola said on Tuesday that the philosophy department would discuss the decision by the course convenor to grant the concession.

One student said on Facebook that the concession was a "joke", as Muslim students had to write exams during Eid. 

'Humiliating and traumatising'

The Democratic Alliance Student Organisation at the University of Cape Town (DASO-UCT) said it did not support this concession, due to the lack of consistency applied by university officials.

"As an example, students who applied for concession to attend the Open Book Festival, an extra-curricular activity which would have been beneficial to students, were rejected," said DASO-UCT steering committee chairperson Neo Mkwane.

The organisation demanded that clarity be given, with clearly stated guidelines.

The UCT Black Academic Caucus (BAC) said it was "humiliating and traumatising" that black students were made to be an "unwilling audience to exhibitions of privilege".

The caucus said in a statement that racialised class disparities were highlighted in the inconsistent approach to handling the different needs of students.

"It’s not enough that black students have to silently carry the burden of disadvantage, or think twice before approaching some of their white lecturers when they are in distress; they now even have to watch as racialised privilege is paraded before them."

'All departments grant concessions'

Moholola said all departments within the humanities faculty granted extensions or concessions to those who could not attend class or write tests, if they had valid reasons.

He did not respond to a request for the number of students who had been granted the concession for the music festival.

"In making concessions, there has to be sensitivity to every individual's particular situation and cultural, socio-economical, and other pressures that influence the situation."

Students with requests had to supply the relevant documentary evidence.

He said the course convenor's discretion had to be exercised in a uniform and consistent manner.

"If students believe that the granting of concessions and extensions is not being applied equitably within a course, students may escalate this to the Head of Department and the faculty for review."

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