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Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Volume 33 No. 12. 5 August 1970

Rhodesia: — student strike successful


student strike successful

A strike by African students at a multi-racial university in Rhodesia has ended with students claiming victory, the IIEE Bulletin reports.

400 Rhodesian students marched, shouted and sang their way through the corridors of the administration buildings on the campus of the multi-racial University College (UCR), Salisbury, during the morning of June 18. On strike for three days, the students, most of them African, were waiting for the outcome of a student 'action committee' delegation that was meeting with the UCR Principal, Professor Robert Craig.

The meeting had been arranged to discuss the controversial revision of the UCR statutes that will guide the forthcoming University of Rhodesia. When the UCR is elevated to full university status next year. African students fear that the all-white governing College Council may continue to have no African representation at all.

The students have been demanding equal African and 'European' membership on the Council. Current enrollment at the UCR is 846 students 383 African and 463 white. The ethnic ratio of the population as a whole is 18 black men for every white.

When the members of the student action committee emerged from discussions, they reported that Professor Craig had given them written assurance that the Council would give serious consideration to their demands. Professor Craig agreed, however, on the understanding that the students would not demonstrate during the next Council meeting as they had during the previous one. The students accepted the Professor's reply and called off the three-day strike.

The protests had begun on June 16 when some 250 student demonstrators blocked corridors and doorways leading to the Council room, trapping the members, including the Principal, inside When the students refused to leave, police were called in to remove them. About 40 policemen, some with dogs, quickly arrived, dispersed the crowd and arrested three African students and one white student. The a nested students were later released without charges.

Close Election

In a hard-fought SRC election on Monday for the position of student representative on the University Council's Advisory Committee on Business Studies, Rob Campbell defeated John Barnett by 75 votes to 74.

Two informal votes were cast in the election.

Student representatives had met with the Principal the night before and presented him with two separate petitions, one signed by more than 300 students and another from So members of the UCR staff of 167 teachers. The contents of the two petitions were not made public, but it is understood that they both concerned the Council's ratification of the new statutes.

In a statement explaining his decision to call in the police. Professor Craig claimed that the students were "obstructing both the passage of individuals and the business of the Council" and that he had repeatedly asked them "as a plea and as an order" to leave. The Professor said that he had promised to "receive a deputation of four of their number before any decision on ratification of the statutes would be taken." He fulfilled this promise two days later and the strike ended.

Perhaps the most immediate problem connected with the changing of the UCR is the fate of the 170 Rhodesian medical students (40 of them African) whose future careers will be endangered by the break in academic relations with the University of Birmingham. All links with Birmingham and the University of London, with which the UCR has had a special relationship for awarding degrees, are to be phased out by the time the University is formally opened. Al present, however, the UCR lacks the authority to issue internationally recognized medical degrees. London University issues external degrees in the arts, sciences and economics.

The effort to maintain the University College of Rhodesia away from the international political furore over the Smith regime has been difficult ever since the Unilateral Declaration of Independence in 1966. At that time, nine North American. British and European lecturers were arrested, jailed and deported for their opposition to the secessionist Smith Government. In protest, 70 full-time teachers eventually resigned and the exodus has continued since then.

The former Vice Chancellor, Terence Miller, who resigned last year after a referendum endorsed a new racist constitution, summed up his feelings in these words: "I believe that the prospect before the University College of Rhodesia is now likely to be that of a university in enemy-occupied territory. The head of the university will be expected to collaborate with the 'occupying power' in policies and projects which cannot be isolated from underlying wider principles and assumptions which he must, in his heart, reject."