The University of Cape Town (UCT) is at an important juncture. Your input can help steer us forward.
One of my goals when I took office as vice-chancellor last July was to broaden inclusivity within the UCT community. We all need to feel included, respected and valued in our workplace. This is one of the strategic goals we have agreed to as an institution. Long before the Institutional Reconciliation and Transformation Commission (IRTC) issued its report, UCT leadership began looking into ways to build a sense of community across the institution.
The hard reality is that this does not happen spontaneously, especially in an environment that brings together people representing so many different backgrounds, cultures, sexual identities, languages and experiences. It is also easy to feel isolated under stressful conditions such as we have experienced since 2015. The many discussions about racism across South Africa and within UCT help to bring into focus the kinds of questions and issues that have been raised by the IRTC report – questions that I think may be in everybody’s mind, whether we discuss them openly or not. These public discussions also emphasise the need for us, as UCT leaders, to bring about active change to help everyone to feel included, respected and valued.
Building community takes thoughtful care and work and involves all of us. One of the most important tasks is to listen to the experiences of others. For this reason, we as the executive have agreed to ask each of you, as important members of the UCT community, to take part in a completely anonymous InclusionIndex Staff Inclusivity Survey.
We selected the InclusionIndex survey because it has a strong track record in academic institutions. It has been deployed to more than 50 000 people globally over the past 15 years. It has been validated by the University of Hertfordshire in the UK. Its validity and reliability have been verified by significant testing and retesting. The survey consists of 73 items and can be completed in about 20–30 minutes. As well as generating an overall organisational picture, the survey can run specific reports across various demographic groups.
To guarantee 100% confidentiality, we are partnering with the external service provider Aephoria to administer the survey. We selected Aephoria because of the wide range of clients that have been served by this company, as well as the individual expertise and background each team member provides. The Aephoria team are working under the supervision of UCT’s Office for Inclusivity and Change and a UCT working group chaired by Deputy Vice-Chancellor for Transformation Professor Loretta Feris.
The questions you answer will help to identify what makes relationships difficult in the UCT workplace, so that we can develop specific interventions to help improve those relationships. No individual staff members will be targeted by any intervention. Instead, we will use your responses to the Staff Inclusivity Survey to identify the kinds of interactions and communication habits that might make you feel uncomfortable or excluded. The interventions that we then initiate will address those kinds of behaviour. We believe that over time, with your participation in the survey and in the interventions that result from your responses, we can strengthen the sense of community at UCT by helping one another to build stronger working relationships.
To do this, we need as many of you as possible to participate in the survey. This will allow us to collect academically rigorous data about your experiences at UCT, so that we can then develop interventions to help you improve your workplace relationships. In this way, you will be helping to shape the future of UCT.
The anonymous survey will run from 20 May to 14 June 2019. You can answer online or on paper, in English, Afrikaans or isiXhosa.
Every one of you contributes to UCT’s excellence and every one of you has something important to say to us about how we can be a more inclusive community. So I am asking all of you to please participate.
Here are some important facts about the InclusionIndex Staff Inclusivity Survey and how it will work at UCT:
Your feedback is extremely important to us. By taking part in the survey, you will make a meaningful difference to us all as a community. Thank you for your participation and support.
Professor Mamokgethi Phakeng
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