Black academics at UCT say racism is rife

By Drum Digital
26 September 2014

University of Cape Town (UCT) vice-chancellor Max Price has made a controversial statement on employment equity which has left black academics at the university outraged.

In a letter, Price said the shortage of black academics at the university could be ascribed to a shortage of suitable candidates, a statement that the academics said promotes the "notion that white scholarship and white scholars are superior".

Price continued to write that "few in that small pool choose academic careers over offers from the new government, civil service and corporates, all desperate to recruit highly skilled black professionals.”

Nineteen academics have responded to the letter published on UCT's website in July this week.

They took issue with Price's comparison of UCT to other South African universities that employ higher numbers of black academics: “The article suggests that 'quality' is compromised at other universities that have more black professors, because at UCT 'we are not lowering the standard for appointment or promotion as professor for people of colour.’

"Furthermore, raising the issue of standards when referring to black academics is a discourse that serves to undermine the competencies of black scholars and one that works to maintain the false notion that white scholarship and white scholars are superior.

"In many ways, such constructions ... are part of a broader discourse of white superiority - a historical legacy we all share and have a responsibility to confront."

A senior UCT academic said yesterday that discrimination against black academics was rife at the university: "We have had colleagues who have not been promoted even though they meet all the requirements for promotion," said the academic.

UCT spokesman Patricia Lucas said the institution encouraged debate on the subject of transformation.


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