Mary Metcalfe, the Director General of Education has written to UFS Vice Chancellor, Jonathan Jansen, questioning his decision to allow students accused of racism back onto the campus:
I wish to congratulate you on your installation as the Vice Chancellor of the University of Free State and to thank you for the many positive accepts of your inauguration speech. I particularly welcome the ban on initiation, and the intention to take positive steps to promote multilingualism.
As has been indicated by the Minister in his Press Statement today, we believe that the decision to withdraw the university’s complaint against the students is fundamentally flawed in several respects. The Minister has itemized some aspects of this in his statement, and I have added to his concerns below.
My immediate concern is what might be the way forward. It is the view of the department that any negative consequences of the decisions will need to be resolved in the institution as soon as possible if you are to achieve the justice and reconciliation to which you have committed yourself. It is also our view that you will only be able to achieve this with the participation and support of all constituencies on campus, and through the governance structures of UFS. It is also our wish to support you in this process and in the achievement of this goal.
The flaws in the process and reasoning that will need to be resolved in the institution include:
. Whilst one person may apologise for the acts of another in which
he or she feels themselves to be complicit, this does not take away the responsibility of the person whose action caused the offence to apologise himself or herself
. Whilst individual actions do occur within the realities of
systemic and institutional culture, this cannot remove individual responsibility. Institutional complicity must be addressed, but the responsibility of individuals must also be addressed
. Only the offended person can forgive. No other compensation has
meaning if an apology is not offered and accepted. In the absence of an apology, financial recompense can be interpreted and experienced as an insult
. Reference cannot be made to consultation that did not result in
any agreement as this can be perceived as legitimating an action on which there was in fact no agreement. It is clear that many of the parties you
indicated that you had consulted did not assent to your decision. The
Minster has addressed this in today’s statement.
There are several unanswered questions which must be taken forward within the institution- some of have not been answered since the request for a report on these matters was communicated to you on the weekend and to your office on Monday. These include
. Disciplinary processes: Where the due disciplinary processes of
the UFS followed? If not what are the implications for any other student misconduct? Is it just this misconduct that will be forgiven because of institutional culture? Have other students been suspended or expelled who might have equal claim to pardon? What precedent does this set for future disciplinary cases?
. Governance: what governance structures were consulted in making
this decision? If due disciplinary processes have not been followed, what governance structures concurred with this breach of policy?
We agree with you that the UFS must face the question ‘what is it in within the institution that made it possible for such an atrocity (as Reitz) to be committed in the first place’. Our concern is whether the institutional pardon will assist the institution to address this question. The concerns raised in the public and by internal constituencies are substantive and cannot be dismissed. Our view is that the first step will be for the institution, its stakeholders and governance structures to address the questions that have been asked about the process and content of the decision We may not agree on some of the matters I have raised, but it is a reality that this decision has caused divisions within the UFS community and in the country.
I believe that you and your colleagues with whom you share responsibility to lead the University have the ability to confront the questions that have been raised and debate this in a spirit of rationality and justice whilst the legal process continues.
If we can assist in any way, please let me know. I have copied this to stakeholders who have communicated concerns.
DG, Higher Education and Training
Jansen is a good guy. And I don’t think he should lose his job. But his call here, was just WRONG!
Fortunately the criminal case proceeds, as it should.