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Jammie Hall, University of Cape Town
Jammie Hall, University of Cape Town

On 6 November 2016, the UCT Executive capitulated once again to lawbreaking Fallists by signing an Agreement for Non-violence to allow a resumption of long-disrupted lectures, stoppage of violence/destruction and for intimidation-free examinations.  The Agreement involved, inter alia, granting (in the “spirit of restorative justice”) “clemency” (actually potential conditional amnesty) to “specific individual students” who had broken the law, based on their “formally acknowledging wrong-doing and committing not to repeat … disruptions of normal functions of the university”.

This Agreement was also supposed to reveal a “full list of pending internal and external charges” against the amnestied perpetrators, and the “university hosting university-wide meetings/seminars to launch the IRTC [reconciliation/transformation] process … led by skilled external facilitators” to consult with various “stakeholders” in the UCT Community.

There was no restorative justice, since the perpetrators showed no remorse and made no effort to apologize to their victims.  At least one of the likely (their names and acts have not been revealed) amnestied perpetrators, Chumani Maxwele, has subsequently reoffended at the 15 December AGM of the UCT Convocation without any punitive action by the Executive.   There were no open, let alone “facilitated” reconciliation/transformation meetings for stakeholders.  Finally, another key capitulation to the Fallists was to commit to the creation of an Internal Reconciliation and Transformation Commission (IRTC) to deal with past and present grievances at, and create a process for fundamentally “decolonizing”, UCT.

The Agreement-related Steering Committee (SC) tasked with creating the IRTC is, de facto, dominated by Fallists. For example, Fallist-supporting students and the status-free Black Academic Caucus have five members, and the entire Senate and 100 000+ alumni have just one each.

On 26 January 2017, the SC met, without general announcement and access to the UCT Community in general, with the chairperson (UCT Council Chairperson Sipho Pitanya) only reporting on the meeting’s proceedings and revealing the identities of the SC members the next day.

Future SC meetings will, in general, be live-streamed; but some will be held in camera. Other than dealing with amnesty-related matters, the SC will “make recommendations on institutional culture, transformation, decolonisation, discrimination, identity, disability and other matters” and nominate five individuals to serve as IRT Commissioners.

The call for nominations for IRT commissioners, together with the agreed criteria for commissioners, will be sent out to the university community in February and again when students have registered in March. Nominations will close on 17 March 2017. Members of the university community will be asked to send their nominations, accompanied by a motivation, to their respective representatives on the steering committee. A portal will be set up to receive nominations.

Having just been in the USA and watched President Trump’s cabinet nominees being interviewed by members of Congress, I respectfully request the SC members to make their credentials (e.g. full curricula vitae and academic/criminal records) available to the UCT Community (as was done for DVCs and members of Council) and that they outline their personal perspectives on UCT’s institutional culture/racism and visions for its decolonization.

This could go a long way to dispel any notions of systemic bias amongst the SC membership.

I also encourage members of the “silenced majority” within the UCT Community to keep close tabs on the SC’s activities to ensure that whatever decolonization/transformation is recommended is academically adaptive and does not compromise UCT as an internationally respected centre of educational and research excellence.

The last thing UCT needs is for the IRT Commissioners to further undermine academic freedom and rational/critical debate and steer it towards mediocrity.

As an aside to the UCT News people – why has the Debates and Discussion block disappeared from the UCT IN THE NEWS webpage? Is debate no longer welcome?

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Professor Tim Crowe is a descendant of oppressed Irish freedom-fighters from the United States working class. He is a first generation university graduate, non-settler immigrant alumnus, Elected Fellow and emeritus (40 years’ service) professor at the University of Cape Town. He is a Ph.D.-educated expert on evolutionary biology (covering everything from ‘race’ to deeply rooted evolutionary trees) and conservation biology (especially regarding sustainable and economically viable use of wildlife). He has published nearly 300 peer-reviewed scientific papers/books and is regarded as the world’s leading authority on game birds (chickens, turkeys, guinea fowls, etc.). About 70 of his graduated students have published their research and established themselves in their own right, including four professors.