State cracks down on varsity funds

The government last night cracked down on universities, imposing strict conditions to be met, beginning on Monday, in order to qualify for state subsidies. About 80 percent of university funds come from the government.

The new conditions – which do not differ significantly from those threatened several weeks ago – have laid down a lengthy process to deal with "any incident of unrest or disruption involving the university or a student or staff member thereof".

According to a statement released by the minister of national education, FW de Klerk, university councils will be required to take steps to prevent a range of activities including, inter alia, unlawful gatherings, the promotion of boycotts, support for or promotion of unlawful organisations, encouragement of members of the public to strike or to stay away from work, and support for civil disobedience.

Universities will have to ensure disciplinary steps are taken against any student or staff member found to be guilty of "intimidation or discrimination, disrupting teaching or research or taking part in illegal gatherings". The statement does not appear to restrict the university's responsibility to events on campus.

In terms of the conditions, incidents alleged to fall under these categories must be reported to the minister in writing within 21 days, along with an explanation of steps that will be taken.

The government had decided to take steps to compel universities to enforce stricter discipline, De Klerk said, because of the "unacceptable situation" which had developed over the past few years. The government had found unacceptable "intimidation of students … disruption of academic activities and the infringement of the rights of lawful organisation to hold meetings and invite speakers".

He said the "managerial autonomy" of the universities and academic freedom of students, staff and universities "will not be substantially affected" by the crackdown.

De Klerk said reaction from universities had varied from acceptance to opposition, but sources said many universities across the spectrum, including Afrikaans-medium and black universities, found the conditions disturbing.

This article originally appeared in the Weekly Mail.


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