Max Price. Picture: THE TIMES
Max Price. Picture: THE TIMES

In late December the University of Cape Town (UCT) held a meeting of its convocation. For the most part, the media and public had switched off by then, so the subsequent implosion made relatively little impact. But, as a metaphor for UCT’s general condition, it is about as poignant as these things get, and, with the benefit of hindsight, it is worth taking a closer look.

The meeting turned on a motion of no confidence brought by Timothy Crowe that was directed at vice-chancellor Max Price and the senior UCT executive regarding an agreement reached with protesting students. The crux was the agreement was fatally flawed and the students involved were unrepresentative. It called for all alumni to be anonymously balloted to consider a motion of no confidence in the UCT’s leadership.

There are various accounts of how the meeting devolved into chaos. Here is the report from Ground Up (UCT convocation descends into chaos), which was the only media outlet there.

Here is Tim Crowe’s (UCT’s convocation chaos). And this one from Ed Rybicki (What do you say, when liberalism fails?), who was there, is likewise worth reading.

In summary, the meeting followed what is now a typical repertoire: it was interrupted by protesting students (it is unclear if they were convocation members), but they were immediately appeased and allowed to protest in silence at the front of the lecture theatre. They subsequently violated that agreement with frequent interjections and shouted insults, and about halfway through, as the temperature rose, all control was lost and the meeting was eventually abandoned.