In an unprecedented year, how can we chart our collective progress towards transformation? The UCT Transformation Report 2021 seeks to map the University of Cape Town’s (UCT) transformation journey over rough new terrain.
The year 2021 was almost apocalyptic. We started the year in the trail of nine months of lockdown and emergency remote teaching, with no end to the COVID-19 pandemic in sight. Then, in April, a runaway fire on Table Mountain forced the mass evacuation of students from university residences, severely damaged eight buildings and destroyed irreplaceable collections and archives. The lockdown continued through a bleak winter that stretched our staff to the limits, compromised the quality of our teaching and ended with a generation of first-year students who had never set foot on our campuses. And yet, as this report shows, a resilient core of faculties and support departments continued resolutely, moving the university along the pathway of transformation, diversity and inclusion.
As in previous years, the UCT Transformation Report 2021 is structured around a set of benchmarks, designed to capture the specificity and quality of transformation work, and also to track changes through time. This approach serves as a structure within which faculties and departments in all parts of the university can locate and align their specific work and objectives with the broader picture. As the commentary that follows points out, there are no simple answers or self-evident solutions. And there is value in the work of transformation, in and for itself. In this, we owe a lot to those who have been prepared to serve on Transformation Committees (TC), on the Transformation Forum (TF), the Employment Equity Forum (EEF) and the Institutional Forum. This work is voluntary, often difficult and sometimes distressing. Without the extent and quality of this engagement, we would have little to show.
In its conclusion, this report identifies four continuing pathways to transformation. The first pathway is the set of benchmarks, now used consistently for three consecutive years, that crystallise shared goals in transformation, inclusivity and diversity. The second pathway continues the institutional response to the three benchmark reports that identified the need for wide-ranging transformative change; the UCT Staff Inclusivity Survey, the Institutional Reconciliation and Transformation Commission Report and the Mayosi Report. The third pathway is the journey towards employment equity, which in 2021, included design, consultation and approval of a new Employment Equity Plan, meeting the requirements of the university’s Employment Equity Policy that was approved in 2020. The fourth pathway comprises the continuing work of revising policies, processes and strategies; the dismantling racism strategy, the new Sexual Misconduct Policy, the work of the Special Tribunal on Sexual and Gender Based Violence (SGBV), the revised Disability Policy and the focus, through the year, on LGBTQI+ rights.
In all of this, a key enabling role has been played by the dedicated staff of the Office for Inclusivity and Change (OIC) and the SGBV special tribunal who are often so very close to the fear and fire of transformation work.
Emeritus Professor Martin Hall
Acting Deputy Vice-Chancellor (DVC) for Transformation, Student Affairs and Social Responsiveness
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