The work of transformation goes far beyond employment equity. While employment equity can be legislated by government policy and put into practice by management, true transformation must happen in people’s hearts and minds to have a lasting effect through our actions.
Transformation calls us to commit to building community. This report is evidence of the way the University of Cape Town (UCT) has acted on that commitment during 2021. It also outlines some of the lessons we are learning. One thing we have experienced is the need to apply time, patience and courage to transformation. The way we build community is through vulnerability: admitting our fears and our mistakes, being willing to learn and to change.
For example, this report includes a summary of activities in 2021 that made LGBTQI+ staff members and students feel that the university was a hostile environment for them. I appreciate being called to account for these events and for my own role in how they came about. One positive outcome of these events and the reactions they attracted is that LGBTQI+ issues are firmly on the table, where they have always belonged, alongside issues of gender equality.
This kind of interaction is uncomfortable, but it is part of the work of transformation. It delivers important rewards for the whole community
This report also discusses initiatives that are proving to hold value for the UCT community, including the Executive Transformation initiative and our work towards academic transformation. We are developing the academic pipeline for Master’s, PhD and postdoctoral students from previously marginalised communities, to help them embark on an academic career. This is an important step not only for the academic future of South Africa but also to help these young academics to secure successful careers as researchers, teachers and thought leaders.
These kinds of initiatives are reshaping the culture of UCT. They would not be possible without the support of the UCT community. I thank the UCT Council in particular for investing in our transformation projects.
I also thank our black academics, who have provided insights from their own lived experiences and made practical suggestions that we could implement, hence we now have the Accelerated Transformation of the Academic Programme. They have helped to bring us where we are today on UCT’s transformation journey.
I invite you to join us on this journey by reading about our progress through 2021 and continuing on your own transformation journey within your work, study and community life.
Professor Mamokgethi Phakeng
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