On Friday afternoon Wits University’s Vice Chancellor Adam Habib issued a statement communicating the outcome of the disciplinary process that it had instituted against 11 students who had disrupted the Yossi Reshef concert in March last year forcing the recital to end and threatening and intimidating members of the audience.
“Ten students have been found guilty of misconduct for disrupting or inciting others to disrupt the piano recital. They have been excluded from the University for a period of one year. The sentence is suspended provided that the students are not found guilty of any other form of misconduct for a period of two years. These students will not be allowed to hold any office in any student governance structure for a period of one year. In addition, they will each have to perform 80 hours of community service, as determined by the University.
One of these students has further been found guilty of not obeying a lawful instruction issued by a University employee, and will be required to perform an additional 50 hours of community service for this offence.
The verdict was handed to the University by an independent advocate today, Friday, 17 January 2014. The Senior Counsel was appointed in terms of the University’s Rules for Student Discipline to act in lieu of a Student Discipline Committee, to chair the disciplinary hearing, to carry out all of its functions and to exercise all its powers in line with the University’s policies, procedures and processes.”
SAJBD STATEMENT ON THE VERDICT (20 January 2014)
The verdict against ten students guilty of misconduct during a concert at Wits University represents a resounding reaffirmation by Wits of the values of academic freedom, diversity and tolerance.
In March last year, a group of demonstrators lead by members of the then Student Representative Council invaded the venue where Israeli-born pianist Yossi Reshev was giving a recital and prevented the event from continuing. This behavior was immediately condemned by the University leadership and steps were duly implemented to investigate the incident and call to book those responsible.
In addition to taking appropriate action against those who perpetrated the disruption of the Reshef recital, the University also hosted a follow-up concert by a group of internationally renowned Israeli jazz musicians headed by Daniel Zamir. This resoundingly successful event took place on 28 August in the Wits Great Hall, which was packed to capacity for the occasion. All necessary measures were taken by the University to ensure that the concert went ahead without incident, thereby affirming the University’s commitment to creating safe spaces for all on the campus.
The SA Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD) applauds Wits University for taking a firm and unambiguous stand against those who abuse their right to protest by flouting the principles of academic freedom and unlawfully seeking to silence alternative viewpoints. The outcome of the above hearings sends out a clear message that Wits remains committed to providing a free, open environment in which the values freedom of expression and association are strenuously upheld and where any behavior aimed at preventing others from exercising those rights is not tolerated.
The SAJBD is hopeful that the satisfactory outcome to the Reshef affair will usher in a new era of mutual respect, trust and openness on Wits campus, one that provides safe spaces for the expression of diverse opinions and where people of differing viewpoints can learn from rather than try to silence one another.”