Dear members of the UCT community
Dignity, respect, human rights and social justice are core values that inform who we are as an institution. This requires that we counter unfair discrimination in all its forms, whether in terms of race, nationality, disability and gender, or on other grounds that work against an inclusive university that enables everyone to achieve their full potential.
Over the past few months, we have focused on gender as an area that requires more attention. We have strong foundations, which include the work of the African Gender Institute in the Faculty of Humanities, the Special Tribunal that is addressing the scourge of gender-based violence, and the For Womxn By Womxn initiative that the Vice-Chancellor, Professor Mamokgethi Phakeng, launched when she took office in 2018. But more needs to be done and as a result, at the October meeting of Council, I asked for a review of our policies that provide for gender equity as the basis for further discussion and focus in 2022.
Any focus on gender must include the rights of LGBTQI+ people. Over the past months, there have been some issues at our university concerning gender diversity, including a live interview that the Vice-Chancellor conducted with a medical specialist in September. As a result, I asked that an independent panel be commissioned to review our policies and practices to ensure that we are living our values with regards to LGBTQI+ rights. I committed to the publication of the panel’s report in full and I am now inviting you to both read the report and its recommendations and to comment, in confidence, on the panel’s findings.
The opportunity to comment will be open until Friday, 14 January 2022. While we are requesting that you authenticate as a member of staff or a student your information will be anonymized, your identity protected and your personal details will not be released to anyone. If the report raises issues that affect you personally, please contact support staff at the Office for Inclusivity and Change. This report, along with the independent panel’s review and the analysis of your responses to the review, will be discussed by the UCT Council at its first meeting in the new year.
The Vice-Chancellor is committed to implementing the review panel’s recommendations, informed by the analysis of the comments and suggestions that you submit. To mark the inauguration of this process, the Vice-Chancellor will extend the For Womxn By Womxn research grants to include the trans and gender diverse community. These awards will be for building scholarship that advances the cause of the trans and gender diverse community, capacity building for trans and gender diverse postgraduate students and/or postdoctoral fellows and increasing the number of outputs that focus on trans and gender diverse people. The awards will be made in partnership with the African Gender Institute. Further details will be announced by Professor Phakeng early in the 2022 academic year.
The review panel’s recommendations will, when implemented, go a long way to ensuring that UCT is inclusive for LGBTQI+ people. But they also have much wider value. The panel’s recommendations for curriculum reform and teaching practice have broad applicability across all our faculties. Observations on the promotion of diversity and inclusion are relevant for achieving gender equity more broadly, and also for ensuring an environment free of unfair discrimination against people with disabilities, for outlawing xenophobia and for protecting the rights of all minorities. The panel’s conclusions on accountability have relevance for all of us in leadership positions. Overall, the panel has made a wider contribution to our ongoing commitment to the “massive transformative purpose” of our Vision 2030 and I would like to thank them for their hard work, and I look forward to hearing from all of you.
With best wishes
Babalwa Ngonyama, CA (SA)
Chair of UCT Council
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