Professor Jonathan Jansen is well known as someone with strong views and the determination to express them in public when necessary. This served him well during his time as Dean of Education at Pretoria University.
At his inaugural lecture at the University of the Free State on Friday he announced that the institution would drop charges against the four students involved in the infamous Reitz Residence scandal.
His desire to draw a line under the incident on move on to substantive transformation at the university is understandable, but has not been widely supported.
There were initial concerns expressed about the decision but the furore has not died down. Higher Education and Training Minister Blade Nzimande called for the decision to be suspended – a call which has now been supported by all his Cabinet colleagues.
Unions have been more vocal in their attacks. Nursing union Denosa has questioned Jansen’s ability to run the university, and Cosatu in the Free State have called for his removal from the position.
Professor Jansen seems to have taken all the major role players off guard when he made the announcement. He said at the time that he had consulted with all the stakeholders, but that has been denied by the unions and workers involved.
The absence of an apology from the four young men who humiliated the cleaners at the residence is a clear omission. How do we expect the victims to behave if they meet the students on campus?
However the criminal case and equality court hearings against the four students will continue. Maybe the case is better served in a court of law rather than a university hearing.
Professor Jansen has also not expressed clearly enough that the young men have already been punished to some degree. All had to interrupt their studies and the residence has been closed. So they aren’t going away without any consequences for their action, even though many would argue that the consequences were not severe enough.