TSC and UP discuss accommodation

 HENRI UYS AND POOJA PUNDIT

On 2 March, the TSC and UP management met to discuss accommodation issues.

Sisana Machi, Director of Residence Affairs and Accommodation, announced resident placement problems. Machi said that almost all of UP’s residences are full, excluding the most costly residence, Hatfield Studios. She reported that these residences consist of between 62% and 68% black students. Citing reasons such as location and catering for specific programmes, Machi stated that of the residences, two consist of mainly black students. Machi concluded that the University’s residence placement policy is under review and that the updated policy will be implemented from 2018. Acting Vice-Principal, Prof. Carolina Koornhof, said that the new policy will prioritise students funded by NSFAS, first year students coming from quintile 1, 2 and 3 schools, and students relying on SASSA grants.

According to Machi, UP’s residences have strictly limited space available: approximately 9 500 beds for 45 000 undergraduate students. Available space is designated for first year students and for specific programmes, such as Thuthuka and the Dell Foundation. Machi said that senior students are placed in residences according to their GPA ranking, the requirement being a minimum GPA of 50%. Machi added that students who had placement in their first year are not guaranteed re-placement in following years. Henrico Barnard, Chairperson of the TSC, said that significant changes to the residence policy include the addition of distance and financial need as placement criteria, and the removal of places reserved for discretionary placement of special cases (ten seniors per residence) as considered by the committee chaired by the Director of Residence Affairs and Accommodation. “Placement criteria is proposed to be made up of 80% academic performance, 10% distance and also 10% financial need. [It] is also proposed that there are 10 spaces kept per residence for extraordinary students with exceptional cases,” said Barnard.

Prof. Koornhof congratulated the TSC for assisting students who struggled during #UPResCrisis. Forty-eight beds were leased at Eastwoods Village to accommodate students on waiting lists who qualify for residence placement. It was pointed out that students had to make arrangements to settle outstanding debt before they could be placed in a residence.

Prof. Koornhof said that [private] residences such as Eastwood Village, The Fields and Urban Nest have no academic requirements for placement. According to Prof. Koornhof, there are 300 available spaces left in these residences, for which NSFAS provides funding. The residences mentioned by Prof. Koornhof aren’t affiliated to UP.

Prof. Koornhof said that analysing distance from the university is not a useful indicator. According to Prof. Koornhof, the new residence placement policy will exclude students living in townships around Pretoria who are in need of accommodation.

Prof. Koornhof confirmed in the meeting that funding has been provided by the Department of Higher Education and Training to build a 350- bed residence between TuksMonate and Taaibos. She also addressed the issue of refurbishment in some residences. According to Prof. Koornhof, conditions in some residences “would soon no longer be conducive to studying”. These conditions include plumbing, electricity, roofing and safety issues. She said that it was “unlikely” that these renovations would continue due to the fact that the university’s finances are “under pressure”.

Prof. Koornhof addressed allegations that black students, funded by NSFAS, were placed in residences away from the University. She said that the allegations are “unfounded” because the electronic system responsible for the placement of students does not distinguish between students funded by NSFAS and those not funded by NSFAS.

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