[lg policy] South Africa: New Stellenbosch University rector talks transformation

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at gmail.com
Thu Apr 30 15:04:57 UTC 2015


New Stellenbosch University rector talks transformation
2015-04-29 19:22

Jenna Etheridge, News24



Cape Town - Stellenbosch University must be a place where people can openly
debate transformation and also feel welcome, Rector and Vice Chancellor
Professor Wim de Villiers said at his inauguration on Wednesday.

“…There have been concerns raised around transformation, inclusivity and
diversity, as well as our institutional culture and symbols on campus,” he
said in a speech prepared for delivery.

There had also been comments around the language policy, which some people
felt might exclude them.

De Villiers, 55, said that a “discussion without borders” or an “open
debate”, which led to mutual understanding, was needed around
transformation.

“Now, as doctor I can confirm that the circulatory system is absolutely
essential! Similarly, if we cannot freely express what we have on our
minds, and if we do not really listen to one another, the prognosis is not
good.”

He had faith that the university was capable of such a debate.

Transformation could be thought of in two ways, he said.

“On the one hand, it relates to the need for change in response to South
Africa’s history of racial discrimination and exclusion. On the other hand,
transformation in education and research is an imperative to build the
future we want…”

He believed the university had taken an important step in 2000 when it
formally acknowledged its contribution to the injustices of the past, and
committed itself to redress and development.

De Villiers said the university had 762 black, coloured and Indian students
in 1990.

Today, they total more than 11 200 students, or nearly 38%, of the student
body.

“And we aim to advance this further over the next few years. I believe we
can do it.”

De Villiers said 20% of academic staff were black, coloured or Indian and
there was much room for improvement.

This included representation of women, especially at senior academic and
management levels.

He believed the issue of language was complex and required careful
deliberation.

The university had adopted a new language policy in November last year.

“The policy says the university is committed to Afrikaans as academic
language, but also to English in the interest of accessibility, as well as
the advancement of Xhosa, where feasible”.

He said the university was working to ensure language was not a barrier to
access.

De Villiers is the university’s 12th rector and vice-chancellor and took
office at the start of April.

He is a university alumnus and medical doctor who also studied and worked
in England and America for 21 years before returning to the country two
years ago.

His predecessor was Professor Russel Botman, who passed away in June last
year.

http://www.news24.com/SouthAfrica/News/New-Stellenbosch-University-rector-talks-transformation-20150429

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