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Protesting students did universities a favour, says UCT Law Dean

9 December 2016 1:19 PM

There's no 'business as usual' at university campuses thanks to student activism, says the Dean of Law at UCT.

Professor Penny Andrews, the Dean of Law at UCT, was thrust into her new position this year as student revolt picked up again under Fees Must Fall "reloaded" and the Shackville housing protests at UCT.

While she has questioned their methods, Prof Andrews says that student activists have helped university management concentrate on the urgent issues that need to be addressed on campuses across the country.

The students did universities a big service and favour. They focused our minds on what needs to happen. Now we know.

Professor Penny Andrews, Dean of Law at UCT

At the same time Andrews has problematised the disruptive and destructive nature of the movement, which she says has trumped 'civility' with the rise of social media and anonymity.

I have been struck by outright rudeness, intolerance and bullying. A total disregard for another person's view point. What can you say when people engage in threatening conduct? Not only is it uncivil. It's unlawful.

Professor Penny Andrews, Dean of Law at UCT

The dean says that it is possible to debate and disagree without demonising other people's view points.

She advises that she was disappointed that not many difficult questions were confronted between the student body and staff while negotiating engaged decolonising learning and its economics.

Andrews emphasises the importance of transforming the curriculum (what it contains and how it is taught), as well as the existing hierarchy within teaching spaces .

A first-hand account

Meanwhile, student leader Virginia Takoana has testified to the exclusionary nature of the UCT law faculty and campus in general.

Takoana, a Zimbabwean national and vice president of the UCT law faculty's student council, says that students have been rightfully fighting for institutional and curriculum decolonisation.

She says many black people have not felt like they belong in the faculty and have felt a sense of being 'othered'.

The law faculty has been very much white in its operations. Most people didn't feel they fit in.

Virginia Takoana, vice president of the UCT law faculty's student council

You can't teach history as if you're teaching it in Europe when you have other African students that need to know their background.

Virginia Takoana, vice president of the UCT law faculty's student council

Friday Stand-In Judge Albie Sachs says it shouldn't be difficult to decolonise law as the Constitution is the product of African minds.

Together with Sachs, the pair discussed the effectiveness of peaceful protests, the disruption of final exams, stakeholder engagement and other protest tactics from this year.

Take a listen to the in-depth conversation:


This article first appeared on CapeTalk : Protesting students did universities a favour, says UCT Law Dean


9 December 2016 1:19 PM

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