Brenden Gray

Letter to the Vice Chancellor from academic staff of the University of Johannesburg

Brenden Gray
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Dear Vice Chancellor


We, academics of the University of Johannesburg, congratulate the university on its decision to hold an inquiry concerning conflicts that occurred on UJ campuses during October and November this year.

We strongly urge that this is a public and independent inquiry, and ask that consideration be given to requesting the South African Human Rights Commission to initiate the inquiry. In our view it is necessary to hold an inquiry open to public participation for the following reasons:

1. the conflict occurred in public space as well as on the campus and involved the SAPS and Metro Police, and possibly individuals who are not students or staff of the university, as well as our students, staff and contracted employees;

2. we are a public university and there is public interest in what occurred (as evidenced, for instance, in statements made in the press);

3. there are different versions of events and conflicting narratives and these need to be tested by a credible commission appointed by an institution external to the university and subject to public scrutiny and involvement of all interested parties;

4. a public inquiry will have greater credibility than an internal investigation (which is important for the international as well as local standing of our institution).

The proposed public and independent inquiry should be charged with

a) establishing the facts of what occurred;

b) responsibilities for the conflict;

c) making recommendations aimed at allowing the university, including its students, and public authorities, including police, to learn from the experience.

In the meantime, whether or not the inquiry is public and independent, all suspensions of students should be lifted. These suspensions give the impression that only students were responsible for violence when there is evidence, including objective evidence, of excessive and probably unlawful force being used by police and ‘bouncers’. Suspension of students may impair the impartiality of an inquiry, and an inquiry can inform any disciplinary hearings that may be deemed necessary by providing a better appreciation of the context of the conflict.

We further request that announcement of the proposed inquiry be made before the end of the academic year, thus helping to heal wounds that have been opened by the conflict, providing a more congenial climate for any protests that may occur in the new year.

This letter is only for UJ academics to sign. In order for the letter to have the desired impact please sign as follows including your title:

- Academic title - Name - Surname -

The petition closes at 6pm, Monday 7 December 2015. Please ask colleagues to sign this letter by sharing the link.

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