On February 14, 2022, amidst protests over the University of KwaZulu-Natal’s (UKZN) student registration system, reports emerged that some demonstrators had intimidated personnel and blocked members of the campus community from accessing the campus.
The university temporarily suspended operations in light of this development. Over the next few days, however, clashes between student protesters and security guards continued on the campus, with reports of the latter using tear gas and firing rubber bullets and the former throwing rocks. On February 18, UKZN announced that it was shutting down its Howard College campus indefinitely to ensure the safety of staff and students.
Scholars at Risk is concerned about reports of protesters intimidating university personnel and reports of violence during on-campus protests that apparently forced the closure of a university. While students and other protesters have a right to freedom of expression and freedom of assembly, they also have a responsibility to exercise these rights peacefully and responsibly. University security personnel are also reminded to refrain from disproportionate force and ensure that their actions are ot intended to retaliate against or restrict nonviolent expressive activity. Violence harms the ability of higher education communities to safely and adequately conduct research, teaching, and other academic activities. Such incidents undermine academic freedom, institutional autonomy, and democratic society generally.