2 June 2014
The South African Students Congress (SASCO) has learnt with great discontent and tremor of the changes that have been made by the University of Cape Town in its undergraduate application forms. We are dismayed by the University's public response on the matter which has signalled its arrogance and disregard for the intelligence of the people of this country. It is rather frightful for us to find out that there exists in our democratic society a group of individuals who want to reverse the gains of our dispensation, and when caught, claim it to be a mistake.
The University of Cape Town had always claimed to be active in redressing the injustices of the past and to promote a diverse student body, amongst other things. It is for this reason that the university introduced an admissions policy which would ensure that students whose academic performance had been hindered by a number of factors, ridden in the injustices of the past, are given an equal chance in gaining access to the institution.
In order to administer this, the university uses self-declared race as a measure for disadvantage. It does so with the understanding that an illegitimate racist government subjected South Africans to privilege and disadvantage on the basis of their skin colour. This has over the years resulted in a student body which was increasingly becoming more representative of the demographics of the populace of the Western Cape and South Africa at large.
Despite all this, the university ventured into a discussion on whether or not to continue with this admissions policy which has created and maintained racial diversity at UCT. The basis of this discussion arrogantly questions the relevance of using race as a measure for disadvantage and redress in South Africa. As such proposes that other factors be considered in determining disadvantage of an applicant, such as parent's race, parent's level of education, and whether an applicant is a recipient of a social grant.
The outcomes of this discussion is that while the Vice Chancellor was engaging stakeholders on the proposal that they were making which would serve as an alternative to the current progressive admissions policy, changes were made by in the university's application form. These changes now required an applicant to state what race their parents and grandparent were classified by the apartheid regime, and what level of education they have. In the 2014 Application Form, these questions were clearly meant for research purposes and optional for the applicant to fill in. However in the current printed application forms, these are for the purposes of admitting students.
The university responded by stating that this was an administrative error and that the university management was unaware of this incident. It is only when a member of the SRC raised it with the university management that they claim they came to know about the changes. We find it difficult to accept the explanation given by the university as true, considering that the same changes are also reflected in the university's undergraduate prospectus, which states that, for this reason, and because our redress programmes are expressly designed for those South Africans whose lives were and are affected by apartheid and its legacies, our redress policies will apply to you if you are a South African applicant who had a parent who was classified under apartheid as Black, Coloured, Indian or Chinese. Furthermore it is also inconceivable for a university of such prestige, to be cable of committing such a grave mistake, a mistake which is totally indistinguishable from their alternative proposal.
The university has now claimed that it will correct the error by changing the online application form and by clearly mentioning that the questions are for research purposes. They have further circulated an instruction to the admissions office to ignore the section filled in by applicants whom have used the printed application form. We believe that this will not correct the "mistake" made by the university. This is because we know that already numerous application forms have been distributed to prospective applicants, and in some cases completed and returned. This means the university will not be in a position to determine the race of the applicants whom have filled in the printed application form, since the only section that requires race-classification will be ignored. This will mean that redress measure will not be applied to these applicants and will end up being placed in the open category, since the university will have no way of determining their race. This will thus inevitably reduce the enrolment of Black African, Coloured, and Indian students at UCT.
We believe that this is a deliberate attempt of UCT to exclude black, coloured and Indian prospective students from accessing higher education. The actions of UCT are a further indication of the unwillingness of former white institutions of higher learning to keep Black African, Coloured and Indian children outside of their gates.
For more information contact,
Ntuthuko Makhombothi (SASCO President) on 071 875 2209
Luzuko Buku (SASCO Secretary General) on 0718793258