Former University of the Free State vice chancellor Professor Jonathan Jansen has stated that “the militant minority” are holding university campuses hostage, and these protesters have no intention of negotiating for the end of the fees crisis.
Jansen made the comments as part of a column on RDM.
He said vice chancellors at South Africa’s universities have sat through “hours and hours” of negotiations with students, only for them to “back out at the last minute” and accuse universities of not engaging.
“Those in charge of our universities realise once again that they are being played,” said Jansen.
Jansen said the protesters believe that “if they press long, hard, and violently enough”, they will receive free higher education.
If this means forcing tens of thousands of students to repeat a year, so be it.
There is one problem, though: there is no money for free higher education, said Jansen.
“There is no scheme in a stagnant economy that can ensure this happens on a recurrent or sustainable basis. The students and families laughing all the way to the bank, if this happens for 2017, are the middle classes and the wealthy, even as our mortal sin, inequality, deepens.”
Jansen said those affected by the protests the most are poor students – who the protesters claim to represent.
“These would-be revolutionaries went for an all-or-nothing approach, thereby pushing a generation of poor students off campus into unemployment, with the burden of debt.”
He also lamented the coverage the protests have received from the media, which has been celebrating the “endless spectacle of protest”.
Jansen referenced journalist Cobus Bester, who said he was worried about how media houses have “succumbed to the modern scourge of political correctness in their reporting on the chaos on our campuses”.
Jansen also referenced Steven Friedman, who said: “I am increasingly worried that I, perhaps like some colleagues, have been reluctant to share the truth about the student protests for fear of appearing to be right-wing law and order nuts.”
Universities have spent hours negotiating with students, making multiple concessions, only for the protesters to demand a complete shutdown of academic institutions.
The column ended by stating the only way for universities to have a future is for them to open and stay open.