Exam postponement decision followed unified student leadership structures request and was supported by faculties
The decision by Stellenbosch University to postpone examinations for a week followed an unprecedented, unified request from all student leadership structures, Professor Deresh Ramjugernath, the Deputy Vice-Chancellor of Learning and Teaching said on Saturday. The decision was made in the best interests of students after consultation and careful deliberation.
The university also sympathised with those for whom the decision would cause disruption, he said.
The university announced on Friday that the examinations would be postponed from their scheduled start on Monday, May 23 and would now start on Monday, 30 May. Assessments which had deadlines for this week would also be extended by one week. The normal university schedule will resume after these examinations.
The examination rescheduling was made in the context of the trauma and disruption following the Huis Marais incident and the separate rape incident, both of which the university condemned, along with all crimes and infringements on human rights and dignity.
Professor Ramjugernath said all student leadership structures including the Student Representative Council and student societies had met as a group on Thursday evening. He said it was the first time ever that there had been a unified meeting of all the student leadership structures at the institution.
The request for the assessment and examination re-scheduling had emerged from this meeting and was presented to the university on Friday morning, he said.
The student leadership had understood that not everyone had been affected to the same extent over the last week but agreed that all students had been impacted.
“They also understood that obviously a request of this nature would cause disruption because plans have already been made in terms of travel and so forth."
Professor Ramjugernath said the institution approached the decision by accepting “that we understand that there's been significant trauma and discomfort and our students are in a challenging mental state, and in an emotional state where it's very difficult for them to write the exams come Monday."
The decision had to be made rapidly because of the imminent start of examinations. Still, the Rectorate had consulted on the request which served at an emergency Learning and Teaching Workstream meeting that included the Deans and Vice-Deans: Learning and Teaching.
“We discussed the various options and whether we had support from the Faculty leadership that were in the Learning and Teaching Workstream for the request. There was overwhelming support for it from all the representatives from the faculties within the Learning and Teaching Workstream," he said. He said there had also been support for the decision from the student leadership and from other students.
The recommendation was then forwarded to the Rectorate who had made the final decision on Friday afternoon.
He said the decision was unprecedented outside of “acts of God" like Covid and that the university sympathised with those whose plans had been impacted by the decision.
“I think it's obviously challenging, particularly when you have already made plans. But the events that took place on campus and the challenges that have been faced by a significant portion of our students are such that they are all regrettably going to be affected by it. This decision is clearly unprecedented and was not taken lightly, but made in consultation and after careful deliberation. We finally came to the conclusion that it is in the best interest of our students to approach the exams in a calm frame of mind after the horrible events that disrupted normal campus life."