TransformUCT: 'The future is watching'

13 April 2015 | Story by Newsroom
Students gathering on upper campus the day the statue of Rhodes came down. Photo by Roger Sedres.
Students gathering on upper campus the day the statue of Rhodes came down. Photo by Roger Sedres.

TransformUCT – a group of black academics committed to transformation at the university – appeals for earnest engagement around transformation.

Since 20 March, students, academic and non-academic staff have attempted to reimagine our university and higher education in South Africa in the Archie Mafeje Room in Azania House (officially known as Bremner). This movement rallied together around the need for change, including the removal of the Cecil John Rhodes statue that looked out from upper campus; but it was never only about the statue. It is disheartening that communications from the executive, which includes an eviction notice, invites students, staff, alumni, other stakeholders and onlookers, to read the #RhodesMustFall movement as merely about that statue.

As a group of black academics committed to transformation in our university, TransformUCT pleas with management at the University of Cape Town to withdraw any charges against students or staff; step back from its divisive, intimidatory and unproductive rhetoric and course of action that has most explicitly taken hold since the removal of the Rhodes statue. This rhetoric attempts to criminalise students, staff and other stakeholders who have created a generative space through their occupation of the main administrative building. This rhetoric aims to minimise the demands put forward by student leaders and staff as out of touch and petulant.

As committed citizens of this institution, TransformUCT stands in solidarity with the #RhodesMustFall movement and demands transparent and earnest engagement by management with the movement toward the full transformation and decolonisation of our institution. We ask that, as signs of good faith and commitment to the work ahead, management action the following:

  1. Assure that no student or staff will be prosecuted;
  2. Swift allowances for excluded students to register, mindful of the value of the space Azania House offered them during the past weeks;
  3. Adequate physical space be provided by the institution for the work begun in the occupation, during which time academics have engaged in different ways of imagining a transformed curriculum and pedagogy. This was only possible through reclaiming Mafeje Room, and it is imperative that this momentum is carried through until that curriculum is on the table.

Such actions will go a long way towards assuring students, staff and the larger community that UCT has "renewed" its efforts for transformation.

History will ask what you did when several of our institution's best and brightest students stood up for change. Do not let it be that you retreated from the invitation to transform higher education in South Africa. The future is watching; what happens in the next 72 hours will shape the legacy of your leadership.

TransformUCT


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