Two crimes that occurred in the first six days of August at and near UJ – one on the APK campus and the other off campus near our DFC campus – have concerned university management greatly. Fortunately the two students affected in these incidents have survived these ordeals. However, the subsequent trauma in relation to the first incident and injuries in relation to the second, will take longer to recover from.
Understandably these events have shaken the UJ community causing much anxiety among students, parents and staff members. University management takes seriously all crime incidents affecting our students and staff.
The management of the University of Johannesburg has requested an immediate and rigorous audit of the security systems on campus with a view to making the necessary improvements. Such audits will be conducted periodically to ensure that UJ campuses are a safe and secure environment conducive to effective learning and the production of knowledge.
In the meantime the University is pressing ahead with the immediate tightening up of security around all our campuses, especially at access points. In discussion with the SAPS, Metro Police and the City of Johannesburg, we will be exploring additional ways in which the streets surrounding and near our campuses, including areas where our students live in off-campus accommodation, can be made safer.
A wide set of counselling and psychological services are available to UJ students and staff affected by crime – through PsyCaD with additional support available via a telephonic crisis line (0800 777 000) that is serviced by registered and intern psychologists.
To this end, the Principal and Vice-Chancellor, Prof Ihron Rensburg and Prof Tinyiko Maluleke, Deputy Vice-Chancellor (DVC) responsible for Student Affairs met with the student who was a victim of crime on the 1st of August in order to offer the support of the university. Similarly, the Acting Executive Director: Student Affairs, Mr Godfrey Helani, has accompanied the parents of the injured student several times during their hospital visits. The injured student has been making steady and encouraging progress in hospital.
Crime on or near campus affects the morale of staff and students. A safe and secure environment is so basic a necessity for productive scholarly activity it is often left unmentioned. The University will not tolerate anything that undermines the conduct of its core business and the pursuit of academic excellence. For the university, the safety and security of students and staff is not negotiable.To this end, the University is working closely with the police both to bring the culprits to book and to make our environment safer and more secure. The University will not hesitate to strictly apply its own disciplinary codes to deal with members of the University community suspected of having, or found to have, violated these codes.
Commenting on the possible impact of this incident on the reputation of the University, Prof Tinyiko Maluleke, DVC: Internationalisation, Advancement and Student Affairs said, “This is not merely about the reputation of the University – narrowly understood as something that exists ‘in and of itself’. It concerns the very mandate and mission of the University. Reputation is not exclusively dependent on the constant painting of a rosy picture, either of our institutions or of our country. As we together confront difficult realities and engage in hard-nosed pursuit of lasting solutions to the challenges we face, we are in the process, also engaging in the slow and exacting task of reputation building. For this reason, University Management has been openly engaging with the media about crime on or near campus – unfortunately, some (not all) members of the media have tended to be sensationalist about the recent incidents.”
Maluleke proceeded to argue that crime and crime prevention is a matter requiring the attention of all of us: “When it comes to crime incidents, UJ is in some ways, a microcosm of what goes on in other/similar institutions, Gauteng Province, the city of Johannesburg and of South Africa as a country. There is therefore a need for a deeper national discourse and joint action about crime and the wanton violation of the human rights – especially violence against women and other vulnerable groups in society”.
Ultimately safety requires the timely and regular sharing of information, open discussion and debate about peace and security, as well as the active participation of all the important stakeholders – staff in general, security personnel and students. Together we can not only reduce crime on campus, but eliminate it completely.