Bargaining with the devil: Will UCT heads roll for pact with #Fallists?

Emeritus Professor Tim Crowe highlights some of the ingredients required to ensure a world-class university
Emeritus Professor Tim Crowe

The University of Cape Town’s (UCT) Vice Chancellor Dr Max Price and the senior managers who agreed to make a pact with a group of students who have been behind violent protest action have angered many others who have not supported mass demonstrations. No confidence motions have been tabled against Price and his senior executive, including by regular BizNews commentator Emeritus Professor Timothy Crowe. This move is unlikely to eject Price, concede those who have taken the bold step to signal their discontent; nevertheless it may serve as a message that the UCT management team is going down the wrong track. Earlier this year, students hit the headlines as a wave of protests brought learning and teaching to a standstill around the country. Violence and intimidation marred the demonstrations for free tuition as did loud calls to “decolonise” universities. Price and his team made a deal with the so-called trouble-makers, essentially giving in to their demands and absolving them of deeds that included criminal actions. The efforts Price has made to resolve the crisis are not good enough for students and academics on the other side of the ideological divide. They note that the deal Price and his team have made with an unelected student representative group goes against the university’s values. The bigger picture here is that the value of UCT degrees is being steadily eroded as the institution’s reputation slowly crumbles. Giving in to students who have a “decolonisation” agenda that is not clearly defined only seems likely to hasten UCT’s decline. – Jackie Cameron

By Caryn Dolley, News24

Cape Town – The University of Cape Town’s convocation will have a chance to support a vote of no confidence against Vice Chancellor Max Price and his senior executive when it meets next week.

The no confidence motion came about because of dissatisfaction surrounding a peace agreement between the university’s executive, Student Representative Council candidates, and other student formations, which was signed in November.

The protest shack that is no more - pic from Twitter.
The protest shack that is no more – pic from Twitter.

The motion was tabled last Friday by Emeritus Professor Timothy Crowe and is supported by others.

UCT’s convocation is set to meet on December 15.

Gwen Ngwenya, a former UCT Student Representative Council president and the chief operating officer at the South African Institute of Race Relations, who was part of the tabling of the vote of no confidence, said the breaking point had been the peace agreement made last month.

Part of the agreement was that specific students, who had been subjected to disciplinary tribunals relating to the Shackville protests that rocked the campus in February, would be granted clemency.

Students had erected a shack on UCT’s upper campus as a symbol of the struggle students had with housing and financial exclusions.

The shack was later demolished by security, and some of those involved were suspended, interdicted, or expelled.

‘Unelected students’

The agreement also said an Institutional Reconciliation and Transformation Commission, or Shackville Truth and Reconciliation, would be immediately established.

The commission was expected to make recommendations on issues, including institutional culture, transformation, decolonisation, discrimination, identity and disability.

But Ngwenya said the university’s executive had made the peace agreement “with unelected and unrepresentative students”.

“What is continuously not being asked is, who speaks on behalf of the future student, the former student whose degree is being eroded, and the current student held to ransom by unelected representatives?”

Ngwenya said there was “no agreed definition by the university on what decolonisation entails”.

“It is as unfathomable, as conceding that you do not understand the terms of a contract, but agreeing to sign it regardless.”


Zapiro's take on the UCT student protests - for more of the cartoonist's magic, click here.
Zapiro’s take on the UCT student protests – for more of the cartoonist’s magic, click here.

She also said UCT had failed to assert its own values in the peace agreement.

Ngwenya acknowledged that the motion would not result in Price having to step down.

“It can serve as a serious warning.”

On Monday UCT spokesperson Elijah Moholola said UCT’s convocation annual general (AGM) meeting was set for December 15.

“It is usual practice that notice of motions are called for ahead of the meeting. All motions received in terms of the rules will be before the AGM. UCT confirms that notice of a motion has been received, seeking the Convocation to consider a vote of no-confidence in the Vice-Chancellor and his senior Executive,” he said.

The university would not discuss the matter as it was meant to be dealt with at the AGM next week.



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