Unisa calls for urgent action against lecturer after tweets attacking students funded by NSFAS

2019-11-01 22:22
(File, Nompilo Kunene, The Witness)

(File, Nompilo Kunene, The Witness)

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The University of South Africa (Unisa) has found that comments made by a senior lecturer on Twitter are offensive and contain racist undertones.

The institution has called for action to be taken against her.

Unisa issued the statement on Friday, two days after Professor Tracey McKay lambasted National Student Financial Aid Fund (NSFAS) recipients on the social media site.

READ: 'I didn't mean to offend anybody' - Unisa lecturer after series of tweets attacking NSFAS recipients

At the time, McKay was responding to Twitter user Roman Cabanac who had earlier asked how textbook sales could fall if NFSAS gave students R5 000 to spend on books. 

She wrote she wished students funded through NSFAS were copying the books.

McKay claimed she was sure that the money was being used on "entertainment, wigs, nail polish and other student essentials".

She added that "even before this cash payment, the students would buy the books and immediately sell them", further tweeting that she worked in academia and the vast majority of students she had taught were the kind that bought wigs.

When contacted by News24 for comment, McKay apologised, saying she was embarrassed by her comments.

She said she was not thinking straight when she wrote her response and did not mean to offend anybody.

Demeaning and derogatory

In its statement, the university said McKay's remarks were demeaning and derogatory. 

"The university reiterates that it regards the tweets and conduct of Professor McKay as very serious, extremely offensive and inconsistent with the values and ethos of the university. It is also the university's firm belief that the tweets by Professor McKay contain racist undertones; and may also be in contravention of university policy. 

"The university has also taken serious cognisance of the outcry from the student community and other stakeholders that stringent measures need to be taken by the university in the light of these vexatious remarks; and agrees that action commensurate with the seriousness of this misconduct is necessary," the statement read. 

Unisa's principal and vice chancellor, Professor Mandla Makhanya, has directed relevant authorities within the university to ensure that urgent action is taken against her. 

"When we dealt with the problem of racism within our institution last year, working together with the South African Human Rights Commission, we gave a commitment that, as a university, we will confront and deal decisively with the spectre of racism whenever it rears its ugly head in our midst.

"Incidents of this nature should therefore be confronted head-on and with the necessary urgency to avoid the further polarisation of our society and to prevent damage to the reputation of our university," said Makhanya.

Read more on:    unisa  |  racism

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