Wits University is ramping up security and tightening restrictions on student protesters as it is determined to continue with academic activities this week.
The university announced over the weekend that classes will continue this week, despite the planned General Assembly having to be called off after failing to reach consensus with protesting students.
According to the university, the consensus it was looking to reach with students was that it would fully support and dedicate resources to the students’ fight for free education, agreeing with the ultimate goal of achieving that with government.
Wits was also seeking consensus that classes would start again this week, so that the academic year could be completed.
However, Wits spokesman, Shirona Patel, said that student leaders had ‘shifted the goalposts’ by demanding the format of the General Assembly be changed, and that universities remain shut down until free education had been achieved.
Without consensus, the General Assembly was called off, with students renewing their vow to shut the university down, and Wits management ramping up security to ensure the academic year could continue.
Wits has also tightened restrictions on protesting students, designating protest action to specific areas, and threatening protesters with suspension of they break one or more conditions.
- Anyone intimidating students to leave a lecture room or building, or disrupting university activity, could be suspended;
- Anyone carrying rocks, stones, weapons or any other items that can be used to destroy property or inflict harm will be immediately disarmed and could be suspended;
- Any person deliberately concealing his identity could be suspended;
- All persons arrested by the police could be immediately suspended.
All suspensions will immediately be processed for finalisation through disciplinary hearings, Wits said. Suspended students will not have access to campus.
Rigorous control of access to the university, including comprehensive and sporadic checks of all vehicles and buses, will be implemented. All staff and students will be required to carry access cards, the university said.
Wits management said that it will continue to engage with students, but it could not ignore the rest of the academic year. Failure to complete the academic year would have dire consequences for students, matriculants and businesses.