Residence students who faced eviction for failing mid-year exams allowed to continue calling the university “home” just in time for Homecoming Weekend.

Wits University has allowed 70 students to continue living in its accommodation for the remainder of academic year after winning their appeal against evictions on Tuesday, August 29, 2022. 

The eviction threat came after the students, who are repeating courses in the 2022 academic year, failed the midyear examinations. 

Basil Mugwena, dean of campus housing and residence life, said, “The individual cases presented by students with firm commitment to improve on their academic performance prompted Wits as a caring [u]niversity to allow students to remain in its residences for the remainder of the year.” This, however, only came after several meetings. 

The eviction matter was escalated to the Vice-Chancellor’s Office after the challenges faced by some of the students “were highlighted by the director of campus housing and residence life and also the chairperson of the residence appeals committee”, said dean of student affairs Jerome September. 

Siyabonga Asiamah, chairperson of the All Residences Sub-Council (ARSC), to which unresolved accommodation issues are escalated, said that the “university [was] prioritising a policy over the livelihoods of students”. 

These students, who lived in Wits residences and failed courses during the 2021 academic year, had to re-apply for residence accommodation for the 2022 academic year. 

Readmission was granted on the conditions that students were on “probation” until after the mid-year exams and failure of any mid-year exams would result in residence exclusion, as stipulated in a standard appeal feedback letter received by every student who was re-admitted with mid-year conditions. 

“Following the release of the mid-year results, those not performing at the required level as per their re-admission conditions, were informed that their residence status has changed and they were advised to make alternative housing arrangements,” September said. 

Asiamah said that he did not believe that students “would willingly fail knowing that they have these conditions over their heads”. 

The university’s decision to allow these students to live in residences for the remainder of the academic year came just in time for the #Wits100 Homecoming Weekend. 

Prior to the decision to allow affected students to remain in residences, Asiamah had said that if the students were evicted, he would issue a communication for students living in Wits residences to boycott the centenary celebrations of September 2 to 4, 2022. 

FEATURED IMAGE: Two residents of Barnato Hall, West Campus on their way to class. Photo: Tannur Anders