UP on Wednesday warned students that they could face suspension, expulsion or criminal charges for liking, retweeting or being tagged on social media posts that it deemed hate speech.
In response, the SRC told News24: “The SRC notes with concern the tone of the university management with regards to its said regulations on social media. Although we recognise the need for responsible interaction and commentary; the current nature of the statement, we believe, creates a sense of victimisation and limitation of speech and engagement among students.”
“Furthermore, in light of the heavy security presence in the form of bouncers, and in light of the presence of the Saps, and the general militarisation of our institution, we believe such a statement adds to the paranoia of students and the limitation of their freedom of expression as provided for in the Constitution of SA.”
UP spokesperson Anna-Retha Bouwer said the statement was to remind students of their responsibilities.
“It is to make students aware that they must be careful of what they post on social media because the university can take action against them,” said Bouwer.
The message was sent out to students on the university portal notifying them of the decision. It said recent protests at the institution were fuelled by commentary on social media.
Students at the university had been protesting over its language policy for the past two weeks. Some 27 people were arrested for public violence and appeared in court last week.
Charges against three of them were dropped, leaving 24 students to stand trial. Their case was postponed to 7 April.
The university was closed for a week due to the protests.
Last week, UP Vice-Chancellor Prof Cheryl de la Rey told News24 that the university would adopt a zero tolerance approach to violence and crime.
The SRC said it had received a lot of complaints and worries from student bodies regarding the rules and would be conducting research in order to challenges the decision.
“The SRC is in the process of engaging our legal advisers as to what extent such statements are legal, legitimate and binding and how best to #unsilenceUP around such matters of importance. These tactics with the said intention to create a safe environment ironically instils a sense of fear among students and thus are not conducive to the moral of an academic institution,” it said.