In the lead-up to the end of the fourth quarter of the University of Cape Town’s (UCT) annual calendar, the Office for Inclusivity & Change (OIC) hosted a year-end function to thank staff and students for their commitment to championing transformation throughout 2022.
In the Bremner Building’s Mafeje Room on a particularly sweltering Cape Town summer’s day, the OIC team turned up the heat in a completely different way to celebrate the academics, professional, administrative support and service (PASS) staff, and students in attendance.
The event began with introductory exercises reflecting on the past year, while encouraging Transformation Committee and Employment Equity (EE) Forum members to get to know one another. Attendees were then divided into groups to take on a series of 60-second challenges to test their resourcefulness.
Whether it was blowing a set of cups off a table with only the air from a single balloon or guiding a biscuit from forehead to mouth without any hands, the uproarious laughter from the teams remained constant and a testament to the can-do attitudes and enthusiasm with which everyone present approaches their respective roles.
Quinton Apollis, the OIC’s inclusivity and capacity-building specialist, explained that the event was designed with fun in mind, to allow team members to enjoy some light-hearted moments together, as they considered the impact of their work over the course of the year.
“The session served as an end-of-year function during which we wanted to create a space to debrief, have fun together and appreciate colleagues with a small gift for their contribution to transformation at UCT, as transformation-related work is not remunerated.
“Finally, the space is an opportunity to network and reflect on the year together, as transformation committee members often work in silos within their respective departments and faculties,” he said.
A focus on transformation
Housed in the Office of the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (DVC) for Transformation, Student Affairs and Social Responsiveness, the OIC provides institutional responses to transformation, sexual and gender-based violence, disability and cultural change.
The Office, said OIC director, Dr Sianne Alves, focuses on transformation, diversity and inclusion work at UCT.
“Its purpose is to drive support for the DVC’s strategy for intellectual scholarship and transformation, as well as to further inclusion as it is experienced on campus, while also achieving equity in terms of employment.”
“The work of transformation is everyone’s work.”
Through a multi-pronged approach that focuses on curriculum, disability services, institutional cultural change, sexual and gender-based violence prevention policy and research, the OIC seeks to provide effective support, and encourage collaborative leadership at UCT.
Apollis noted that while the OIC enables this critical work, it is the individuals who give of themselves to advance transformation – while encouraging others to do the same – who enable UCT and its greater community to thrive.
“The work of transformation is everyone’s work. It is essentially about change, change for the better, change that allows for the flourishing of all at UCT and beyond,” he said, adding that UCT had committed itself to unleashing human potential, and participating in the work of transformation.
“This offers one the platform to contribute to an institution that unleashes potential, in and through diversity and inclusion.”
Addressing the group, DVC for Transformation, Student Affairs and Social Responsiveness Professor Elelwani Ramugondo emphasised the important role of the OIC, the Transformation Committee and the Employment Equity Forum at the university.
“The transformation and employment equity committees are critical enablers of the university’s vision for transformation. The work of transformation invites people with specific mindsets, who can focus on systemic barriers and depersonalise the issue in order to improve the system, rather than grapple with individuals who are resistant to change,” she said.
“This year has been particularly challenging and demanded even more of your focus and time, over and above your core work. The employment equity challenges identified by the Department of Labour presented time-pressured responses that each of you assisted in resolving by either participating in the EE survey or setting up and participating in focus groups.”
Although the period has presented plenty of challenges, Professor Ramugondo said the teams had made invaluable contributions to furthering UCT’s goal of becoming a more inclusive, transformed institution.
“In 2022, there were many notable successes implemented by transformation committees in the various faculties and departments. For example, the committees made great strides towards finalising their inclusivity actions and plans.
“In other areas, you have enabled contributions and donations to community organisations for gender-based violence, while also using scholarship to enable change at UCT, or externally, through the application of research addressing some of Africa’s most pressing problems,” she explained.
“Without you, accomplishing a successful EE audit this year would have been much more difficult. In addition, EE representatives have for many years served selflessly on committees, ensuring that equity appointments are made, defended, and advocated for.
“Without you, accomplishing a successful EE audit this year would have been much more difficult.”
“This year, the introduction of new systems and processes required that we adhere to stronger cohesive approaches that enable and ensure that targets are met, and that accountability for these targets are appropriately placed with the executive leadership.”
Following the challenging work that the OIC, transformation and EE committees have tackled during 2022 – and the encouraging outcomes achieved – the OIC saw the event as a unique opportunity to thank the colleagues involved, and encourage them to stay the course.
“Today’s event was quite special. It was a unique moment after the pandemic to bring together the transformation enablers at UCT; the people who are deploying the programmes, who are doing the coordinating work within faculties and departments, and are holding space for those who are in crisis,” said Dr Alves.
“So, this was one day in the calendar where we were actually able to say thank you for what you do, that we recognise your efforts – which are all voluntary – and to say that we see you, we hear you and we thank you.”
Included, connected community
Professor Ramugondo echoed these sentiments, noting that the committee’s work is critical to advance UCT to become a fully transformed institution in which every member of the community feels included and connected.
“It goes without saying that, ultimately, we choose to do this work because we have experienced a humane, caring, fair and just UCT. We are either here today because we protect that fair and just UCT or, for some, we see where UCT can still do better, and you want to be a part of that solution.
“Whatever drives you to continue transformation work, we thank you for heeding this call, for taking up the challenge and for being a part of the transformation success and journey as we work towards realising a humanising UCT for every single staff member and student.”
She concluded: “Because of you, UCT is being transformed, and there is incremental progress that we can celebrate and be proud of because of the united efforts of each of us here in this room, and our colleagues who support us within our respective areas.”
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.
Please view the republishing articles page for more information.