Windows smashed, door burnt in campus incidents

Sue Maclennan


What appeared to be an arson attempt at Rhodes University left the back door of a major exam venue damaged and charred and around 30 windows surrounding the library quad and of offices adjoining the exam venue were smashed in stone-throwing inciidents at the Grahamstown campus on Saturday 22 October.

This came two days after the University informed students of measures to ensure they are able to complete their coursework, and that they are able to write examinations.

South African Police Service (SAPS) spokesperson Brigadier Sally de Beer said a case of public violence had been opened for investigation following Saturday night’s incidents.

De Beer said activity had begun on the Grahamstown campus around 10pm Saturday night 22 October.

“A group of students started stoning buildings on campus and damaged two SAPS vehicles,” De Beer said in response to questions from Grocott’s Mail.

“Students also set fire to the side door of the Great Hall and smashed several windows to the Great Hall and library.”

Student media organisation Oppidan Press reported that a student was injured and taken to Settlers Hospital following shooting with rubber bullets by the police during Saturday night’s action.

De Beer did not confirm that a student had been injured during the police response to the activity on campus.

“We are not aware of any injuries and none have been reported to us,” De Beer said.

When Grocott’s Mail visited the campus Sunday afternoon, around 20 windows were found broken both at the library and on the sides of buildings facing the library quad. Another 20 were broken in the structure adjoining the Great Hall - most of them offices and meeting rooms for the Sol Plaatjie Institute for Media Leadership. It appeared most had been broken last night, rather than in previous incidents on Tuesday night, because broken glass still lay on the ground and inside the offices..

Rocks, bricks and rounded river pebbles used around plant beds on the library quad lay scattered nearby, and broken bricks and rocks had been layed in the road outside the library.

In one case a rock lay on a computer keyboard in an office, with books, papers and personal belongings on the person’s desk covered in broken glass. Like several other offices, there was a large, gaping hole in the window, leaving the room open to the afternoon’s drizzle.

Staff from a private security firm are stationed at most buildings on the campus day and night.

Meanwhile, a post on the RU Fees Must Fall 2016 Facebook page suggests exams should be delayed.

“Forcing students to write exams when it is clear that nothing is normal and the climate is extremely hostile serves as a slap in the face of those who have been shot and arrested,” the post read. “Exams CANNOT happen. Not now at least. They need to be moved or deferred to January so that students are given time to somewhat recover from the trauma of what's currently happening.”

This appeared to be in response to a statement issued by the University on Thursday explaining why it aimed to ensure coursework and exams continued.

The statement issued by the university’s Communications and Advancement Division read:

“It has been really important for us to keep the academic programme going for many reasons.  One of these is that many students are hoping to complete their qualifications this year.  

“Some have jobs waiting, others have plans to move on into postgraduate study. Some students completing professional courses need to do articles or serve internships in 2017.

“A failure to complete the academic year would also have had enormous implications for international students whose study visas terminate at the end of November.

“Finally, an inability to complete would have caused problems at the beginning of 2017 as, literally, there would have been no ‘space’ for new students because existing students were still in the system.”

Plans for completing the academic year include take-home exams.

The University’s Exceutive Director: Infrastructure, Operations & Finance Dr Iain L’Ainge on Friday issued a statement on its internal mailing system calling for a moratorium on end-of-year staff parties on the campus, saying these would be irresponsible and inappropriate.

“Academic and support departments and Divisions are encouraged to find ways of celebrating the end of the year in ways which do not require the expenditure of University funds,” L’Ainge said. “We are aware that some entities have access to funding other than that supplied by the central budget. In such cases we ask everyone to be sensitive to the current economic situation in which we find ourselves and join colleagues in other departments and entities in not using those funds for end of year celebrations.”

Source:  Grocotts Mail

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