The most recent Town Hall Meeting, which took place in the Great Hall on Tuesday, 8 April 2014, gave staff and students an opportunity to ask frank questions of the Vice-Chancellor and Principal, Professor Adam Habib, and the SRC President, Shafee Verachia.
The issues that were raised included unmet requests for bus shelters, student funding and exclusion, discrimination against international students looking for funding, and the need to peg merit scholarships to student fees, among many others.
Verachia opened the proceedings by giving a brief report from the SRC in which he congratulated all newly elected student leaders. He mentioned that, through the SRC’s intervention, students who were promised NSFAS funds which were later withdrawn, had been given full financial packages. He said that the SRC had set themselves a target of raising in excess of R1m to support students who were struggling financially. He mentioned the absence of a safety route on campus, the “inhumane” conditions in Esselen Street Residence, and the lack of bus stops and wifi in some residences as problems that needed to be fixed.
Habib also gave a brief speech in which he addressed the NSFAS issue, saying that although funding had increased dramatically over the last four or five years, it was still not enough and that the University was subject to the Department of Higher Education’s rules around disbursement. He mentioned that online registration would be rolled out for the second half of the University’s programmes next year. He reassured staff that the University was talking to medical aid service providers to ensure more value for money and that they hoped to finalise options within the next month or two.
Habib also mentioned the wage agreement of last year and said that the University was currently involved in a multi-year wage agreement negotiation. He spoke about the University’s challenges with regards to Esselen Street Residence, and also admitted that Wits hadn’t invested properly in IT infrastructure and that wifi – and the whole of the University’s IT system – would be a big focus of the next 18 months.
Listen to VOWfm’s podcast of the event here.
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- Responses to issues raised at the Town Hall Meeting on 8 April 2014