Statement by the vice-chancellor of the NWU on student disciplinary matters
Over the past few years, the management of the North-West University (NWU) has focused on a strategy to transform and position the NWU as a unitary institution of superior academic excellence with a commitment to social justice. This culminated in major structural changes embodied in our new statute, which we are in the process of implementing.
As chief student disciplinary officer of the NWU, I had the opportunity to consider a disciplinary matter which involved students of the university publishing comments on social media. Students on the Potchefstroom campus were accused of publishing allegedly racist remarks in May 2017.
During a hearing on 30 May 2017, a student was found guilty and a sanction was handed down. He was suspended from the university for two years, but the sentence was suspended for the remainder of the duration of his studies. He also received the penalty of a fine of R 5 000. He was found guilty on two charges. The first charge was that his conduct was detrimental or could have been detrimental to the good name, order, discipline or performance of the university or any part of the university, and the second, a charge of making statements on social media amounting to discrimination in the form of racism.
A second student was charged with conduct allegedly being detrimental or which could have been detrimental to the good name, order, discipline or performance of the university or any part of the university, making statements on social media which allegedly amount to discrimination and/or hate speech, and also allegedly contravening the social media policy of the university. This student requested a postponement, and his case was scheduled for 18 July 2017.
The matter was put on hold today and the provisional suspension of the student in question was lifted, to allow the student to continue with classes.
After consulting the members of my senior management team who were available this afternoon, I have decided that the case against the second student should not proceed and should be withdrawn. This is so, because the evidence to be presented does not clearly justify the continuation of the matter.
My team and I are working hard to build a culture which is socially inclusive and cohesive, welcoming and embracing the diversity of our university community, mindful of our historical context. Incidents of this nature are against all of these and we must apologise to the staff and students of the NWU and, in fact, the public at large. It is clear that we need to do more in our mission of educating students to live and work in South Africa, in the spirit of our mission, our values and our country’s constitution.
The university management condemns any act of racism or discrimination in the strongest possible terms. It is against the ethos and values of the NWU and contradicts our efforts to work towards social justice. We shall continue to work tirelessly to build a culture of which the university community and the rest of South Africa can be proud.
Enquiries: Mr Louis Jacobs 082 901 6435
Date: 18 July 2017