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SA Organisations

Wits’ draws line on anti-Israel protest

10 Wits students guilty of misconduct for disruption or incitement at Yossi Reshef piano recital last March. By issuing 2-year suspended sentences & 80 hour community service VC Prof Adam Habib drew the line between protest & hooliganism, much to the delight of SAUJS and the SAJBD – both of which orgs applauded Wits today
by ANT KATZ | Jan 20, 2014

Hooliganism dealt harsh blow by Habib

  

The University of the Witwatersrand (Wits) has announced that a verdict has been reached in a case of 11 students charged for the disruption of a concert by musician Yossi Reshef during Israel Apartheid week (IAW) on its campus last March.  

“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,” says Professor Adam Habib, Wits’ Vice-Chancellor and Principal. 

“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,” added Habib.

Board applauds Wits for ‘firm & unambiguous stand’

National executive director of the SA Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD) issued a statement Monday in which she “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 hearings, says Wendy, “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 behaviour aimed at preventing others from exercising those rights is not tolerated.”

SAUJS pleased with “upholding & protecting students”

Ariela Carno, the national chair of the SA Union of Jewish Students (SAUJS) said the student body “commends Wits University in upholding and protecting its students.

SAUJS was pleased that a guilty verdict was reached in the case of all 11 students charged for the disruption of a concert by musician Yossi Reshef on its campus last year.

What it is all about

Student protesters forced the abandonment of a Yossi Reshef concert at Wits last March, just i5 minutes after it began. This forced the embarrassed University’s Vice-Chancellor’s Office (at that time represented by incumbent but outgoing VC Professor Loyiso Nongxa), in consultation with incoming VC Prof Adam Habib, to follow two courses of action:

Habib Adam April
PICTURED RIGHT: PROF ADAM HABIB

Firstly, the VC’s office charged eleven students, nine of the whom were members of the then-SRC (Students Representative Council), for their behaviour;

Secondly, the two VC’s asked the Wits music department to arrange to re-host the concert. This was duly done in August, but not without controversy. Reshef was supposedly unavailable, something he later denied, and another artist appeared. It was during that August appearance that BDS-led and inspired protesters crossed the line of decency and their chanting of 'Shoot the Jew' ended up shooting themselves in the foot.

Wits announces its verdict…

Professor Habib’s FULL STATEMENT was issued last Friday, 17 January:

Statement from the Vice-Chancellor & Principal
of the University of the Witwatersrand

The University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, today announced that a verdict has been reached in a case which saw 11 students charged for the disruption of a concert by musician Yossi Reshef on its campus last year.  

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.

Reshef YossiOne 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.

PICTURED LEFT: YOSSI RESHEF

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.

Wits is renowned for encouraging freedom of expression, dialogue and debate on often diverse and conflicting views confronting society, provided that it does not exceed the limitations explicated in our Constitution. The University provides a platform for different constituencies to express their views and opinions through considered debate and intellectual engagement in the spirit of tolerance, respect and openness.

The diversity of people, programmes and ideas at Wits leads to the richness and robustness of the institution. This is indeed one of the greatest qualities of excellent higher education institutions, and one which Wits cherishes.

THE SAJBD RESPONDS…

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 Reshef was giving a recital and prevented the event from continuing.

Kahn - Wendy pensiveThis behaviour was immediately condemned by the University leadership and steps were duly implemented to investigate the incident and call to book those responsible.

PIC LEFT: WENDY KAHN

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 behaviour 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.   

For more information please contact Wendy Kahn on 082 444 3675.

SAUJS RESPONDS…

Wits acts against anti-Israel protesters: Ariela Carno, national chair of SAUJS:

A group of University of the Witwatersrand students have been slapped with a suspended sentence after an anti-Israel protest on campus last year.

SAUJS commends Wits University in upholding and protecting its students

On 17 January a verdict was reached in the case which saw 11 students charged for the disruption of a concert by musician Yossi Reshef on its campus last year.

The verdict that was handed down is as follows: “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.

Reshef Yossi HOMEOne 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.”

PICTURED LEFT: YOSSI RESHEF

It is the view of SAUJS that this verdict proves that the University will not tolerate intimidation or anti-Semitism on its campus and it is SAUJS hope that this verdict will create a clear precedent that intimidation and intolerance against the Jewish student body or any other group or individual are not accepted at Wits University.

In the words of the Vice Chancellor Adam Habib “Wits is renowned for encouraging freedom of expression, dialogue and debate on often diverse and conflicting views confronting society, provided that it does not exceed the limitations explicated in our Constitution. The University provides a platform for different constituencies to express their views and opinions through considered debate and intellectual engagement in the spirit of tolerance, respect and openness.”

We at SAUJS commend the Vice chancellor and the University for adhering to its mission statement in this regard. In addition, we fully agree with the University’s anti-Boycott measures and all procedures that are continuously being taken to prevent individuals and academic institutions from using Freedom of speech as an excuse to promote anti-Semitism and intolerance.

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