Report on UCT Council meeting of 19 June

28 June 2021

Dear members of the UCT community

Firstly, and on behalf of the University of Cape Town’s (UCT) Council, I wish all students well for the examinations that are currently underway.

We understand the challenges posed by the trying economic climate and the COVID-19 pandemic. We wish you strength and the resilience to pursue your studies with diligence – as difficult as the path might be; I know that your commitment and hard work will be most worthwhile.

This brings me to the very exciting upcoming moment in the UCT annual calendar – the graduation celebrations that will take place between 12 and 19 July. Council congratulates all those who will receive their degrees. This is an important milestone that will anchor your future endeavours. Given the pandemic, the graduation process has been amended in order to take into account the health and safety of all students, families, and educators. We look forward to a time when we are able to celebrate graduation occasions in person.

The UCT Council met on Saturday, 19 June 2021, with a bumper agenda that demanded and attracted robust debate. Council, as is its role, deliberated the many items and came to several major decisions which I wish to share with you.

Firstly, Council debated the proposal for the renaming of Smuts Hall and resolved that the current name be changed with immediate effect. This residence will be known as Upper Campus Residence until such time that a permanent name is confirmed. This is an important moment which should be seen as an opportunity for us to forge a new path together. I am confident that, whilst we have varied perspectives and opinions, we will be able to  reach a consensus on a new name that contributes to building and strengthening our shared identity and an inclusive future. I have already written to you separately on this matter.

Building a shared identity and a common purpose across the university as a whole is a key objective of Vision 2030. Our vice-chancellor has clearly communicated the intentions of the Vision 2030 through her engagements with the university community, and Council is unified in its endorsement of Vision 2030. To be successful, we will need to see a fundamental change in our culture at both the individual and the collective levels. With this in mind, the executive team shared with Council the paths that the implementation of Vision 2030 will follow. It was clear to Council, in endorsing this way forward, that this approach will result in the tangible changes that will be required to meet the “massive transformative purpose” that is at the core of this blueprint for the future.

Vision 2030 emphasises that transformation is a required dimension of all aspects of what we do. Following from this, Council had asked the vice-chancellor to provide a framework that would show how the principles of transformation will be applied as the work of implementation unfolds. This framework, also endorsed by Council, brings together our priorities in attracting, supporting and retaining talented undergraduate and postgraduate students from all walks of life. It emphasises the priorities of achieving equity in staff appointments and career progression, of engaged scholarship that contributes to the challenges of our times, and of our responsibilities as an internationally recognised university in, and for, Afrika. The transformation framework also prioritises placemaking: buildings and spaces that enable and shape an inclusive community; our virtual identity and the ways in which we use online opportunities; and the lived values that shape our institutional culture. Council noted that this approach is aligned with the requirements of the higher education sector as a whole, and with UCT’s current transformation initiatives.

At the heart of UCT endeavours is its robust scholarship and research credentials. Council was delighted to adopt the 2020 Research Report of the Senate. Council noted the report as a record of the far-reaching research activities of the academic staff and the faculties of UCT. The report is a showcase for the excellence and creativity that is prevalent in the corridors of our beloved institution.

Council further recommended, for submission to the Minister of Higher Education, a statutory provision to enable a process for dealing with allegations of breaches of the Council code of conduct. Council also approved a set of procedures related to the implementation of the Council code of conduct. This is a step demonstrating Council’s commitment to continuously enhance ethical behaviour, governance and fairness.

Council approved the UCT annual financial report and the annual financial statement (AFS) 2020. It is pleasing to note that our university is financially sustainable despite the challenging economic environment.

Council furthermore approved three important policies for UCT:

  1. the UCT Disciplinary Procedure;
  2. the Policy Addressing Bullying; and
  3. the UCT Collections and Stewardship Policy.

These policies address various past issues that have been brought to Council’s attention. Through the implementation of these policies, Council remains firm on its commitment in the creation of a comfortable and safe environment for students and staff.

Council wishes to acknowledge the significant work done by all members of the UCT community in matters tabled above. Your efforts are noteworthy and bold, and you have demonstrated resilience in delivering results in these challenging time. Thank you for your commitment.

Council also reflected on the events of 18 April 2021 when the fire damaged many of our buildings. Council again expressed its gratitude for the fact that no lives were lost and that many staff members, students, donors and members of the wider community pulled together to face and overcome the challenges the fire presented. The resilience of the UCT community is clearly visible as we rebuild our campus.

As the country is experiencing a third wave of COVID-19 infections, I wish all members of the UCT community good health. May our community continue to support each other as we collectively battle the challenges. I wish to give a special thank you and appreciation to all our staff and colleagues who worked tirelessly to keep our campus safe.

I have no doubt that in time, we will overcome and emerge stronger as an institution.

With best wishes

Babalwa Ngonyama, CA (SA)
Chair of UCT Council

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