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Cape Town - UCT students will march on campus on Friday morning to call for the university’s race-based admissions policy to remain unchanged - and have threatened to disrupt exams if this demand is not met.
The Progressive Youth Alliance (PYA) - comprising the ANC Youth League, Young Communist League of SA, SA Students’ Congress and Congress of SA Students - will call for UCT’s council to meet urgently over the weekend.
The council would then have until 1pm on Monday to report back on the outcomes of their meeting.
At a press conference yesterday, ANCYL provincial task team member Aphiwe Bewana said if the “council fails to deal with this”, the movement would consider disrupting next week’s exams.
Bewana said it was due to a “political agenda” that the university wished to change its policy to become less inclusive and admit fewer black students, to maintain a white majority student body.
SACP district treasurer Howard Smith said if UCT was allowed to change its admissions policy it would become a “mediocre and complacent institution”.
More than a year ago, UCT called for public comment on its admissions policy, which asked students to state their race.
The UCT council and vice-chancellor Max Price had repeatedly said the inclusion of race in the admissions policy was undesirable and alternative proxies for disadvantage should be found.
It had been suggested that alternative proxies included whether parents or grandparents had tertiary education, which school pupils had attended, whether they were beneficiaries of social grants and what language they spoke at home.
ANC provincial secretary Songezo Mjongile said it was 100 percent in support of the PYA and opposed UCT’s review of the policy.
Student representative council president Lorne Hallendorff said: “The UCT SRC is against the proposed alternative to the race-based policy for admissions at UCT.
“Having looked at the new proposal as it currently stands, we have concerns that it will not achieve the intended goal of ensuring at least the same racial diversity that the race-based policy ensures.”
Hallendorff said the SRC would never support the disrupting of exams.
University spokeswoman Gerda Kruger said the university welcomed all admissions policy comments and inputs.
“UCT is not abandoning race as a factor in determining past and present disadvantage and remains fully committed to transformation in higher education.
“We have simply discovered over the years that the issue is infinitely more complex: apartheid’s attack on the dignity of black people was mounted at a variety of levels, leaving a legacy of many sites of disadvantage.”
She said UCT would “never reverse its commitment to affirmative action in admissions” but sought another way to define disadvantage.
“It is not true that black students will be reduced at UCT as a result of any changes in admissions policy.
“The university's goal is to attract the best students from all walks of life in South Africa, and to provide redress for past disadvantage.”
Kruger said the number of black students had grown from about 4 500 in 2008 to 6 200 this year.
She said Senate would meet in late November to discuss the proposed model and decide whether to keep the current admissions policy or change the policy for 2015.
Kruger said the PYA’s threat had been noted with concern.
“UCT will do whatever is necessary to ensure staff and students are safe and that students are allowed to take their exams without disruption.”