Vous êtes sur la page 1sur 6

Dear Students:

The statement you are about to read is, for me, the most fear-provoking public statement I have ever
put together. I know there will be consequences for speaking out. If it is worth anything, to you, please
know that I have thought long and hard about the ramifications of this statement. I have also consulted
with my family to hear their take on my decision to speak out in this manner. Most important, to me, I
have prayed very deeply over this matter. I am ready to face whatever might come my way following
the release of this statement and the accompanying documents.

As a point of departure, I want to be clear about my reasons for addressing you, all of you, directly and
comprehensively. First, I am addressing all of you directly because I believe that, in the end, you will be
better off knowing all the facts around the issue that is the subject of this statement. I also believe that
of all stakeholders, it is first and foremost you, the students of the School of Civil and Environmental
Engineering, I owe my loyalty to. Second, I am addressing you comprehensively to weed out, once and
for all, the confusion around the issue that is the subject of this statement. Some of you have come to
ask me questions and/or register displeasure about this issue over the last two weeks. What I have done
is promise every student who has asked me about this matter that I will address this issue when the
time is right. I have also assured everyone that I will be honest when the time comes for me to
address the said issue. This statement is just over three thousand words long, and, to be understood it,
together with the accompanying documents, must be read carefully and in full. My hope is that the
appended documents will help settle questions around the truthfulness of this statement.

The issue that is causing discontent amongst some students in our school is the assessment of the
course, Introduction to Environmental Engineering (CIVN2013) for the 2016 academic year. This is the
reason why I believe it is crucial for me to address all undergraduate students in our school. The
students in the fourth and third years of study deserve to know the truth because they have all taken
CIVN2013 in recent years. The students in the second year of study deserve to know the truth because
in less than a month, and for the duration of one full semester, they will have to sit in front of me as I
present CIVN2013 for the 2017 academic year. These students should not come to the course with
unanswered questions about the delivery and assessment of this course. Thinking about this years
cohort of CIVN2013 students is what motivated me to also add the first year students on this
communique. There is a sizeable number of first year students currently registered for CIVN2013, in
accordance with the Facultys rules for cross-curriculum registration.

On the 8th of June, about nineteen students were informed that they have been granted a special
examination for CIVN2013. These students all wrote the supplementary examination for CIVN2013, on
the 6th of January this year, and failed. The students have been informed that the Dean and the DVC:
Academic have granted them a special examination because their supplementary examination was not
externally assessed. Further, they were told that their supplementary examination was not externally
assessed due to last years protests.

I use the reminder of this statement to address four things:

1. The real motivation behind the granting of the special examination for CIVN2013.

2. How the decision to grant the special examination has incited hatred and contempt towards me.
3. My reasons for speaking out in spite of potentially dire consequences.

4. The good news at the end of it all.

The upcoming special examination is only special in that it is fundamentally about one student.

That the special examination is about one student is my considered view. To get some background
information on this, I implore you to read all the reports/correspondence I am sending together with
this statement carefully. In order to avoid confusion, I propose that you read the attached documents in
the recommended sequence. The letter I sent to the VC, on April 26th of this year, details the history of
the student for whom the special examination is meant. This student is referred to as Student X in the
attached reports/correspondence. I recommend that you now pause reading this statement and read
my letter to the VC.

In response to my letter the VC asked the DVC: Academic to investigate the matter. He also asked the
Dean to engage with me. I met with the Dean and the DVC: Academic on the 23rd of May. I attended
this meeting with three representatives from my union. The DVC informed us that he was still busy with
the academic review of the assessment of Student X in CIVN2013, and, that he will prepare a report for
the VC and the Dean. The DVC also narrated the story of how Student X was allowed to register for two
courses on the same diagonal, in 2016. This was for the benefit of my union representatives and I. The
DVC informed us that Student X launched urgent proceedings against the University in August last year.
This led to an order being granted in his favour. The University decided not to contest the court order.
Further, the DVC told us that the decision to allow Student X to register for two courses on the same
diagonal was taken by his office, and, after considering advice from the Universitys Legal Office.

For the most part, the Dean apologised for not affording me the opportunity to respond to the
allegations made by Student X, against me. He also, and in the presence of the DVC and three
representatives from my union confirmed that, indeed, one of the options that had been considered
during the discussions he had with Legal Office, Student X, and Student Xs legal team was the
redistribution of marks for CIVN2013s supplementary examination as described in my letter to the
VC.

This redistribution of marks was to be done in order to account for the complaints made by Student X
against me. Student X told the Dean and Prof Ilemobade that his failure in the supplementary
examination of January 2017 did not surprise him. Of course, he was not prepared to take
responsibility for his failure. Instead he attributed it to the unfairness of the question paper. Specifically
he told the Dean and Prof Ilemobade that I had not taught on reaction kinetics and chlorine disinfection.
These topics were the subject of two questions totalling 60% of the supplementary examination. Those
of you who took CIVN2013 last year know that these subjects were dealt with in great detail. Reaction
kinetics was introduced during the second week of the semester as part of the launch of presentations
on mass balance analysis and reactor kinetics. Following this introduction reaction kinetics was covered
extensively in the course, and, was the subject of numerous assignment problems. Similarly, the claim
that chlorine disinfection was not covered during CIVN2013 lectures is a pathetic lie. Again, those of you
who took CIVN2013 last year know that this subject was dealt with, in great detail, as part of the series
of lectures on water treatment. This subject was covered between the sixth and eighth weeks of the
semester. It is one thing for Student X to lie in order to curry favour with the Dean. What I find eternally
troubling is the fact that the Dean and Legal Office indulged Student X and his legal team to the point of
considering redistributing the marks for the supplementary examination without affording me the
opportunity to answer to the accusations made by Student X. The Dean, Legal Office, and Student Xs
lawyers all know that Student X never once showed up for CIVN2013 lectures in 2016. I know we live in
South Africa, but I was still incredibly humiliated when I realized how little consideration the Dean and
Legal Office were prepared to give me.

The dossier that had been sent to the DVC, for use in the academic review, contained at least ten items.
Two of these items were a report on the delivery and assessment of CIVN2013 in 2016, and, the HoSs
letter to the DVC. In his letter to the DVC the HoS highlighted the comments made by the external
examiner on the performance of Student X in CIVN2013 as well as the external examiners conclusion
that there is no need for any adjustments to any answers provided by the student in relation to the
marking scheme. I now recommend that you pause reading this statement and read the HoSs letter to
the DVC.

The report on course delivery and assessment dealt with the presentation and assessment of CIVN2013
in general, but, also provided answers to the allegations made by Student X against me. To assist with
the preparation of this report I provided a copy of every single examination paper I have ever set for
CIVN2013 as well as its predecessor (CIVN2006), a total of nine assignment sets straddling the years
between 2012 and 2016, the course outline and syllabus for the 2016 iteration of CIVN2013, the
presentation I used for the inaugural CIVN2013 lecture in 2016, and a report from CIVN2013s external
examiner amongst other things. I had to annotate all of these documents for the HoS and Prof Simate.
YES, I spent hours on just this one task. YES, I have spent dozens of hours answering questions about
Student X as well as assisting with the many investigations the university has commissioned on his
behalf. YES, I have spent the equivalent of multiple work days, in hours, locked in meetings cantered
around Student X. I recommend that you now pause reading this statement and read the report on the
presentation and assessment of CIVN2013 in 2016/2017.

Of all issues addressed in the report you have just read I want to underscore that no supplementary
examinations in the School of Civil and Environmental Engineering were externally assessed in
2016/2017. This is noted on the last paragraph of page 5 of the report you have just finished reading. I
encourage you to actually ask academics in the school, either than the HoS and myself, about this. Ask
the academic in charge of your favourite course, ask someone of your race, ask someone of your
gender, ask the one academic who has personally mentored you if anyone has. What makes people
worthy of your trust is of no significance to me at this point in time. I only implore you to dare ask one
lecturer/professor in our school if their 2016/2017 supplementary examination was externally assessed.
The academic review done by the DVC culminated with a report. I recommend that you now pause
reading this statement and read the DVCs report. The report states that the assessment of Student X
was done in a fair and transparent manner, and, the marks obtained for the assessments done in the
three tests/examinations should remain as approved by the examinations board of the faculty. During
the meeting when this report was presented to the HoS the DVC and the Dean then requested that a
special examination be offered to all students who failed the January 2017 supplementary examination.
For more information on this please read the string of emails titled request of written communication
regarding granting of special examination. I have it on record that the VC received the DVCs report,
and, that he was informed of the decision to grant the special examination for CIVN2013. There are two
sets of emails pertaining to this. Please read the string of emails titled proof that the VC did receive the
report on the academic review of Student X in CIVN2013. Please follow this with the string of emails
titled proof that the VC read the report on the academic review of the assessment of Student X in
CIVN2013, and, is aware of the upcoming special examination.

The decision to grant the special examination has incited hatred and contempt towards me.

CIVN2013 is the only course for which the Dean and DVC have ordered a special examination. In the
email correspondence you have read the DVC holds that the special examination is being granted
because the CIVN2013 supplementary examination was not externally assessed. May I remind you that
no supplementary examination in the school was externally assessed. This decision was taken by the
school and not individual academics. Singling CIVN2013 out for a special examination without students
being told why they have been presented with an opportunity to write a special examination has incited
hatred and contempt towards me.

Most of the students who have spoken to me in recent days have questioned my conduct and motives. I
have been accused of things ranging from being incompetent to being downright cruel. Students who
have had to only register for a few first semester courses, at third year level, because of them having
failed to complete the second year curriculum in 2016, want to know how I plan to undo the damage I
have visited upon them.

Not only have I been humiliated I have also been threatened. For the past two weeks I have been forced
to lock myself inside my office throughout the day, every day. Each time I had ventured out of my office
I have had to face a barrage of questions from students. I have cried for hours and hours. I can now
neatly divide colleagues in my school into two groups, one group made up of colleagues who have seen
me weeping and another group made up of those who have not seen me falling apart.

Being bullied and threatened by students is nothing new to me. The defamation engineered by Student
X is just one example of the contempt and hatred I am often subjected to in my own department. I have
looked around me and I have spoken to colleagues both within the school and outside the school. I have
spoken to colleagues at other universities within South Africa as well as colleagues who work in other
countries. I know without a doubt that this vitriol is driven by a combination of racism and sexism. Last
year there was one incidence when the schools principal technician organized for a security guard to be
posted outside my office for two days, in order to protect me from a group of fourth year students. I am
not aware of any other lecturer/professor, in the history of the school, ever needing to be protected
from students for similar reasons. What makes the current round of humiliation more agonising is the
fact that I have been put in this position, calculatingly, by executives who ought to have known better.
Perhaps I should not be surprised considering that my work, and by extension I, have been investigated
in the most degrading way, for most of 2017, without anyone worrying about the possibility of facing
criticism for that.

I have considered the consequences of speaking out.

I know that speaking out bears potentially dire consequences for me. I want to share four things I have
thought about.

I know that I have compromised my chances of career advancement within the University at best and
have put my job on the line at worst. I want to assure you that there are worse things than being passed
for promotion and/or even being unemployed.

There could also be lawsuits brought against me for speaking out. Again, as stated on my letter to the
VC, I do not come from vast wealth. I have already decided that should this happen I will go to the
extent of representing myself in court. I am not concerned about this as I intend to stick to the truth, as
laid out in this statement, the attached documents, and other documents and memoranda. I believe
that you, as students in the School of Civil and Environmental Engineering have a legitimate interest in
the information contained in this statement and the accompanying documents. I also want to honour
the relationship that exists between you, as students in the School, and I, as your lecturer. Within the
context of this relationship I have a moral obligation to never deceive you. Furthermore, I believe in
speaking out against everyone who discriminates against me because of who I am. For me, not deceiving
my students, and, speaking out against discrimination, even when my voice shakes and I cannot help
sobbing, are matters of conviction. I do know that in the courts principle sometimes loses against those
who can afford savvy lawyers. If that happens to me I will take comfort in the knowledge that I will
neither be the first nor last person to witness the triumph of law over justice. In fact I wager that this
has already happened as far as this particular issue is concerned. The fact that I have been forced to risk
my job and my life for the truth to come out is proof that there is no justice for people like me at Wits,
even in 2017.

Finally, and of most concern to my family, is the risk to my life. I am alive to the fact that in our country,
people with power and money, never have trouble finding others willing to help take care of anyone
who dares challenge them when they assert their privilege. It happens all the time. So, YES, I do know
that by speaking out I have put my very life in danger. The irony is that my safety has already been
compromised, as I have detailed in the preceding section, thanks to the actions/decision of the
Universitys executives. In closing this statement I speak to where my courage to speak out comes from.

The Good News

I have decided to end this statement on a deeply personal note. Many of you, from the cohorts that I
have taught, know what I believe. The few of you that I have been privileged to have meaningful
conversations with know that I have absolute faith in the ONE who saved me. In the last few months I
have had to tap deeper and deeper into that faith to find strength to continue pressing on. As I write
this, it is only because of that faith that, although I am anxious about the consequences of speaking out
against privilege, money and power, I am not consumed by the fear of losing my life due to speaking
out. Should that happen, i.e. should I lose my life, I am confident that the moment that my soul leaves
the body I will be HOME with my LORD. The plan for this was secured before the foundation of the
world. On this hope, I BET IT ALL!
Sincerely,

Precious Biyela, PhD

Copied:

1. Director, Gender Equity Office

2. Director, Transformation and Employment Equity Office

3. HoS, School of Civil and Environmental Engineering

4. Dean, FEBE

5. DVC: Academic

6. Chief of Staff, Vice Chancellors Office

7. Director, Legal Office

8. Academics, School of Civil and Environmental Engineering

9. Human Resources, FEBE

10. ASAWU