New and creative ways are needed to engage students and build a climate of trust before transformation can be discussed and debated on campus.
This sentiment was expressed after the first in a series of transformation seminars stalled yesterday afternoon (16 March) following a student walkout led by Students' Representative Council president Ramabina Mahapa.
The topic of the first seminar, "Heritage, signage and symbolism", had been intended to foster vital debate on how UCT manages transformation, said deputy vice-chancellor Professor Crain Soudien, who was leading proceedings.
A group of panelists, including heritage management consultant and spatial historian Sally Titlestad and Alderman Owen Kinahan, had been invited to participate in the discussions.
Heritage has been at the centre of protest on campus during the past two weeks and has been directed at the statue of Cecil John Rhodes on upper campus. The statue, with its Eurocentric and colonial overtones, has become a focal point for many students of all that remains untransformed at UCT.
The new series of transformation discussions was to have continued throughout the year, each focusing on a single issue in a discussion led by invited speakers and engaging with members of the campus community.
"UCT is not alone in dealing with these problems," said Soudien. "The seminars were intended to identify ways we [UCT] might move forward."
Left with an option to continue with the seminar, Soudien put the choice to the remaining assembly of panelists, students and staff. It was concluded that the debate should not continue without representation from students involved in the protest.
"We have to create a space to restore trust," observed one attendee.
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Story by Helen Swingler. Photo by Michael Hammond.
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