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UCT to avoid heavy security presence... for now

The University of Cape Town will not engage a "significantly heavier, hands-on security presence" to control any student protests just yet.

Vice Chancellor Max Price said they had, so far, decided to have a low-key Campus Protection Service as the norm, whose responsibility was to protect staff, students, visitors and property from crime.

"We have decided, for now, not to escalate private security to the level required to contain classroom and building disruptions, which requires a significantly heavier, hands-on security presence. This would be at a level we have not initiated in the past and which we believe may make many people uncomfortable. We may get there, but we do not want to step up to that level until absolutely necessary," he said.

Price explained why they had decided to shut down all operations on Monday, pending the outcome of the fee announcement by Higher Education and Training Minister Blade Nzimande.

The reasons were threefold, he said.

Reaction

They included heightened tensions of the day, the assessment of the university’s ability to contain disruptions, and the value of a day to develop a plan of action.

"Most of you, I am sure, are rightly angry that the academic programme appears to have been sacrificed further by the decision to suspend classes on Monday, 19 September 2016," said Price.

The decision was taken by the executive, in consultation with a range of stakeholders - deans, the Students’ Representative Council, union executive members, wardens, individual academics and the Senior Leadership Group.

A decision was made to suspend classes because of the anticipation over the reaction to Nzimande’s announcement, as well as the ongoing disciplinary process against students who were involved in Fees Must Fall protests, Price said.

"There is also, of course, the national ferment in student politics - with campuses burning and closed, occupations (such as that at the Stellenbosch University library where students were holding a sit-in), and some common causes, which include Fees Must Fall, insourcing and campaigns to challenge the interdicts against students."

The university believed that it was better to avoid the distress to staff and students who may be involved with tests or studying.

"There have been threats of arson attacks that we are taking seriously. There is an explicit plan to occupy the library and possibly branch libraries."

There were no guarantees that anything would be different on Tuesday, Price said, but they had taken the opportunity on Monday to open dialogues with the protesting students.

 

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