The Black Student Movement (BSM) held a closing ceremony and meeting with university staff and management on the evening of 2 October in the BSM Commons (formerly the University Council Chambers) to mark the end of their occupation of the chambers, which began on 26 August. Members held the ceremony to officially end the occupation, followed by a meeting to discuss issues that affect students and staff, such as buildings that do not cater for people with disabilities, University governance and the issue of the name change.
With regard to the name of the university, Vice-Chancellor Dr Sizwe Mabizela expressed that there was no team assigned to deal with the issue at the moment, but an invitation would be sent to the movement to suggest possible members of a task team that will gather information to decide whether or not the name should change. This statement was met with much frustration from the floor, as many felt that this was another exercise to keep delaying the matter even further.
The BSM called for a reformation of senate, as they feel it is not reflective of university demographics, and dominated by members who are unsupportive of transformation. The Vice-Chancellor explained that the university would soon undertake a process whereby senate would be expanded to include the voices that are not being represented, so they too could be heard.
The BSM further expressed frustration at the structures of the university dealing with racism and discrimination being insufficiently decolonised, and asked how the institution expects to deal with racism if it is a colony in and of itself.
Several BSM members expressed frustration at the way in which the university’s top management handled many of the issues expressed by the movement. Senior management continually referred the movement back to matters of policy and did not provide concrete answers to the questions and demands expressed.
Members of the movement echoed the sentiments expressed throughout the meeting that the institution needed to engage in other processes that would ensure that the transformed future of the university could finally be realised.
Words by Karabo Baloyi