Selection process for the Dean of Humanities

25 September 2018 | From Kgethi

Dear colleagues and students

I write on the matter of the selection process for the Dean of Humanities.

As you might know, the post became vacant when Professor Sakhela Buhlungu left the university.

In 2016 a selection committee was established to fill the post. The committee proceeded with its work to the point where a candidate was recommended to the faculty board for appointment. The recommendation was not accepted. The decision was then made to begin a new selection process in 2018.

Recently, a selection committee was established with the appropriate representatives as members of the committee and chaired by me.

The committee followed due process, including agreeing on:

  • the job description
  • the desired employment equity profile and relevant equity statement for the advertisement
  • the content of the advertisement
  • the appropriate search methods
  • the names of candidates to be approached.

The selection process proceeded well, but only a small pool of applicants applied. The selection committee met to rate the applicants and it was agreed that only one applicant met the selection criteria and should be invited to proceed to interview stage.

As a committee we contemplated the complexities of interviewing only one candidate and agreed that we would ideally like to extend the pool of applicants, particularly to black members of the Faculty of Humanities. The committee approached several such members of staff.

When the selection committee next met, it discussed whether the three members of the selection committee (who were members of the Faculty of Humanities) would consider applying. This was done in the spirit of expanding the small pool of applicants. On being approached, one member indicated that they were interested in putting themselves forward for the position. The member then immediately vacated their position on the selection committee.

The selection committee soon realised that this approach constituted a procedural error as selection committee members are excluded from applying for the position.

In light of how things unfolded, I became convinced, and the members of the committee shared this view, that to proceed would have been procedurally incorrect and would have compromised the process. We agreed it is essential that due and correct process is followed meticulously and that it can stand up to scrutiny after the fact.

The selection committee met on Friday morning and determined that the best option was to disestablish the committee. This was in light of the fact that the new person wishing to apply for the post had been exposed to privileged information as a member of the selection committee. The committee agreed to dissolve, and an entirely new selection process will begin afresh.

I regret that a situation like this has arisen, and the selection committee fully appreciates that an error has been made.

We will make every effort to begin a new process and to conclude it as soon as possible. In the interim, I am grateful to the members of the selection committee that served and to Professor David Wardle, who will continue to act in the position for the time being. His contract comes to an end on 31 December 2018.


Professor Mamokgethi Phakeng

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