The annual World Economic Forum in Davos is a gathering of the world’s rich and powerful. It also attracts the influential, including media entrepreneurs who want to rub shoulders with the globe’s decision-makers, to get first-hand insights on the people, policies and strategies that set the context for our lives – and share these with their audiences.
Along with presidential hopeful Cyril Ramaphosa and other senior politicians have been the intriguing appearance of the University of Cape Town’s Vice-Chancellor, Dr Max Price, in the South African delegation.
Better known these days for striking deals with anti-globalisation students who have been causing chaos on campus, some are wondering what Price is doing engaging with heads of state, leaders of the largest companies and others who control the flow of money around the globe.
At Davos this year Price stood out for his anti-democratic, anti-transparency approach to public debate when he attempted to bar the media from a discussion about South Africa.
He made the news, again, for making an error of judgement in pushing against freedom of speech – particularly peculiar when you consider that UCT academics have a history of promoting this Constitutional right.
(For more about the exchange between Price and the media, read Alec Hogg’s Davos Diary.) The other big question on the lips of many, notes Emeritus Professor Tim Crowe, is this: Who pays for Price’s annual junket to the Swiss Alps? While Rome burns… – Jackie Cameron
By Emeritus Professor Tim Crowe*
Well, it’s wide in the open. A (THE?) primary driving force behind the University of Cape Town (UCT) is money! Where does its leader VC Dr Max Price go to learn to save it? The World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.
‘Davos’ is about three things – business, making profits and doing so on a global basis. The costs of attending it can approach R1m.
Who’s paying? Since this is his third trip, who paid for the previous two? With him will be: Vice President Ramaphosa, Ministers Radebe, Davies, Gordhan, and Patel and BEE million/billionaires Surve, Manuel and Motsepe. They will meet with a bunch of other politicians and extremely wealthy people.
A “Davos Man” is typified an alpha-male member of the global elite of wealthy ‘internationals’. They are kindred spirits with ‘Masters of the Universe’, applied to influential Wall Street financiers.
Davos men self-identity as self-made men, not products of group-based ideologies or political/race-based ‘nationalities’. Institutional loyalties and national boundaries are obstacles that thankfully are “vanishing residues from the past”.
What’s Price going to learn from his fellow Davosians? Probably not much that will benefit UCT since, following last year’s Davos theme – “revolution”, UCT collapsed academically, financially and socio-politically, guided relentlessly by him, his (now mostly departed) DVCs, some of his Deans (some also on to greener pastures) and of course lawbreaking Fallists, into a “chaos” that at least one of his remaining Deans wants the UCT Community to embrace.
Indeed, based on his recent announcement, Davos-Chancellor Price’s current solution to UCT’s sad financial situation did not require deep education in Switzerland:
"UCT alumni and current donors: Please give me another billion rand."
Maybe this year will be better. The theme at Davos is “Responsive and Responsible Leadership”. But this requires providing a vision and a way forward, so that people can imagine a better future.
Strangely, there is a useful warning from Prof. Klaus Schwab, the founder and still host of Davos.
“The pervasive crisis in identity formation that has resulted from the erosion of traditional norms over the past two decades through the practice of globalization has made the world smaller but more complex, and many people have lost confidence in institutions.”
If anything, self-identification and rampant erosion of traditions have become de rigueur at UCT over the last two years. Who’s benefitted, who’s suffered as a consequences of this?
One frightening ‘lesson’ Price and many neo-staff of all persuasion at UCT seemed to have learned during this millennium is money-power based edu-politics. First and foremost, “show me the money”; “don’t bother me with truth” and “make me a professor”.
How that happens is a matter of detail. Rather than learn a subject in depth and be prepared to form their own hypotheses and defend them in print and oral debate, too many millennial academics learn a little about lot of hypotheses generated by others and defend their ‘legitimacy’ irrespective of supporting evidence.
At the other end of the spectrum are the crypto-colonist academics who persist with outmoded programmes that also fail to equip today’s graduates.
The graduates produced are, too often, unthinking profit-makers and fad-followers rather than thoughtful citizens. Many of these are technically competent, but do not know how to criticise authority from a scholar’s perspective.
What’s to come?
In less than a week, the still un-named and undescribed members of the Steering Committee for the all-powerful Fallist-dominated(?) Institutional Reconciliation and Transformation Commission will meet for the first time. After attending this meeting, Price will leave UCTs reigns to someone else (Dr Russell Ally?) for a month while he takes vacation. I hope that he passes on his Davosian knowledge before departing.
- Professor Tim Crowe is a descendant of oppressed Irish freedom-fighters from the United States working class. He is a first generation university graduate, non-settler immigrant alumnus, Elected Fellow and emeritus (40 years’ service) professor at the University of Cape Town. He is a Ph.D.-educated expert on evolutionary biology (covering everything from ‘race’ to deeply rooted evolutionary trees) and conservation biology (especially regarding sustainable and economically viable use of wildlife). He has published nearly 300 peer-reviewed scientific papers/books and is regarded as the world’s leading authority on game birds (chickens, turkeys, guinea fowls, etc.). About 70 of his graduated students have published their research and established themselves in their own right, including four professors.