'UFS must appoint black rector'

2009-01-28 08:07
Bloemfontein - The University of the Free State has not done enough to attract "progressive" candidates for the post of rector, the African National Congress in the Free State said on Tuesday.

Free State ANC spokesperson Teboho Sikisi said the UFS should appoint a black rector.

"Taking a view of the short-listed candidates, it clearly shows that not much has been done to attract some progressive professors in the country, save for Professor Mosala of course," said Sikisi.

The ANC in a document titled "ANC Free State's position statement" on the appointment of the institution's new rector named the five short listed candidates.

They are Dr Ezeki Moraka - vice-rector Student Affairs at the UFS, Professor Herman van Schalkwyk - dean of the Faculty of Natural and Agricultural Sciences at the UFS, Professor Jonathan J Jansen - dean of education at the University of Pretoria, Professor Nthabiseng Ogude -vice-rector of the University of Pretoria and Professor Itumeleng Mosala, director-general of the Department of Arts and Culture.

The UFS rector's post became vacant after former rector and vice-chancellor Frederick Fourie resigned in September last year.

Racial tension

This followed racial tension at the university after a video of a mock initiation of five black staff members into hostel activities sparked a national and international outcry.

It featured black university employees on their knees eating food which had apparently been urinated on by a white student.

In the video, students made negative references to the university's integration policy for campus residences announced in 2007 and implemented in 2008.

The UFS announced earlier this month that a shortlist of five candidates had been compiled for the post of rector and vice-chancellor.

UFS acting rector Professor Teuns Verschoor said the process of appointing the new rector was done by a selection committee which had compiled the shortlist out of 26.

"The applications, which closed on December 2, 2008, were received by an independent company specialising in the recruitment of executive and senior academic positions. The post was advertised locally as well as internationally," he said at the time.

Verschoor said interviews with the five shortlisted candidates would be conducted in early February.

Commitment to transformation

Sikisi said the coming weeks would be a "litmus test" for the university's commitment to transformation, something which had failed under the past three rectors since the 1994 elections.

"The university, with the backing of its racist council, used some treacherous and apartheid style delaying tactics to derail the process (of transformation)."

Currently the university was still seen to continue nurturing and propagating aspects of anti-transformation.

"This has been witnessed by recent events, including the Reitz video, on campus and the failed hostel integration programme, which pushed the former Rector Professor Frederick Fourie to jump ship."

Sikisi said the institution's last three rectors maintained the university's "racial status quo" and continued to lay a fertile ground for racism on campus.

The ANC document says the UFS now stands at a cross road and should finally take a leap of faith and demonstrate its pro-transformation intentions or forever carry the baggage of a backward racist institution.

Sikisi said the ANC's push for a black rector was not about tokenism.

"We are arguing for a candidate who understands the imperatives of the evolution of education within a transforming country. A candidate who would be brave and courageous to deal with the demon of racism."

Council

Sikisi said the ANC also felt the UFS Council could not remain in its current form because it was predominantly white.

He urged the UFS to appoint a black progressive academic.

"He (the new rector) will help save this university and will contribute immensely towards the production of an army of progressive intelligentsia," said Sikisi.

In reaction to the ANC document, Verschoor said he had complete confidence in the outcome of the appointment process and was convinced that a competent candidate would be appointed.

"I also have full confidence in the selection committee," he said.

This selection committee, comprising of 33 members, consisted of vice-rectors, deans and other members of senior management as well as representatives of the Council, Senate, Institutional Forum, Student Representative Committee and unions.

Verschoor said the management of the UFS did not have any influence on the composition of the Council.

"The Council comprises 28 members who are appointed according to the Statute of the UFS and any amendment hereto must be approved by the minister of national education."

He said nearly 30% of the council's members were black.

- SAPA
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