Post-Dated Falsification of Fallism at UCT by Ex-VC Max Price?

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Soon after the ‘excremental’ defacing of Rhodes’ statue at UCT in March 2015, a public intellectual article, The Day of the Jekyll, written by the then pro-Fallist UCT Assoc. Prof. Imraan Coovadia described UCT Vice Chancellor (VC) Max Price’s 2008 installation address as “practising tokenism without the tokens”, accusing him of embodying “two personalities. One is seemingly rational and benevolent [Jekyll], while the other is irrational and undecipherable [Hyde]” and has a “genius for spreading confusion” though the “present[ation of] a number of additional arguments of stunning implausibility”, thereby cultivating “potential admirers”.

In short, Coovadia branded Price as a two-faced, populist conman.

In the same ‘Jekyll/Hyde’ article, Coovadia also asserted that UCT’s leaders encourage members of the her community to denounce ‘black’ staff for improprieties and then hide behind anonymity and confidentiality, citing the ‘Mafeje’  and  ‘Mamdani’ Affairs as examples [summarized here].  Furthermore, he then stated (without any evidence) that ‘black’ professors were expected by faculties and the Price-led UCT Executive to have sterling qualifications (e.g. an National Research Foundation A-rating and a high citation H-index (normally >15 for NRF B-rated researchers), and that the ad hominem promotion of ‘blacks’ to full professor could take two decades or more of high performance to achieve. ‘White’ academics, on the other hand, could become professors 10-15 years faster and only have an NRF C-rating.

Another pro-Fallist UCT associate professor, Xolela McPherson Tennyson Mangcu, argued similarly, debunking the use of measurable criteria by faculty ad hominem promotion committees, saying that he could: ”smell that talent from a distance”. He also attacked UCT’s ad hominem promotions policies by extrapolating from some shocking statistics on the paucity of senior ‘black’ academic staff at UCT. Price countered that, at UCT, it generally takes more than 20 years of post-PhD university-based achievement for most UCT academics (irrespective of ‘race’ and gender) to become full professors. [It took me, with an NRF B-rating and H-index = 22, 25 years.] In doing this, Price inadvertently emphasized the failure of UCT’s Core academic system to ‘grow its own timber’ during the previous two decades. Finally, Price correctly attributed the paucity of potential ‘black’ academic employees, in part, to competition from the government, civil service and corporate sectors.

Mangcu, described by the The Sunday Times as “possibly South Africa’s most prolific public intellectual”, also identified “UCT’s Senate” as “The Problem”. Because it is “a predominantly white structure”, Senate “rule[s] in their own favour” [i.e. against ‘blacks’] and its members are “wolves inviting the lambs [‘blacks’] over for dinner.” In short, Price is a conman and the Senate is a “slaughterhouse for racial justice” populated by “purveyors of swartgevaar (‘black’ peril) [who] argue that there is already too much race at UCT”

Coovadia and Mangcu were not held accountable for this racist characterization of UCT’s leader and its Senate and long-standing internal structures.

Price’s solution to the ad hominem ‘problem’

Rather than challenging Coovadia and Mangcu to back up their accusations of institutional racism with factual evidence or instructing faculties and Senate (UCT’s statutory body that has “controlled all matters academic” for a century) to investigate and, if necessary, rebut (or adapt to) them, Price supported the creation of a parallel entity, the Next Generation Professoriate (NGP).

The NGP was launched in September 2015 and is the brainchild of, and headed by, NRF B-rated socio-educationalist Prof. Robert Morrell, an employee of the Office of the Vice-Chancellor. Its aim is to facilitate the rapid transformation of mid-career ‘black’ academics from a broad cross section of faculties into professors. In support of the need for the NGP, Morrell stated that the elimination of discrimination vis-à-vis academic advancement, requires “open processes that have been put in place to ensure fairness and transparency” and that “these processes are the guarantors of legitimacy” which will replace the ‘old’ ones based on patronage” [My emphasis].

Morrell nowhere provides evidence of discrimination or ‘illegitimacy’ in the existing processes or describes/explains the new “open processes” and who developed/endorsed/validated them. He simply stated: “Promotions in the past were often poorly understood and quite secretive processes. They were rightly suspected of nepotism, the influence of old boys’ clubs and racist and sexist bias.”  He alluded to, but never elaborated on, “nepotism”, ‘patronage”, “secrecy” and “bias” in any form. Statements such as this reinforce unsubstantiated accusations of institutional racism at UCT.

Morrell assesses evidence of institutional racism

On 24 June 2017, a selectively advertised and attended meeting was held to announce the results of UCT-commissioned research conducted by Morrell and a team of statistically-skilled colleagues that addresses the full spectrum of allegations of institutional discrimination against women and ‘blacks’ vis-à-vis the rate and pace of ad hominem promotion. Morrell reported that there is none. Several attendees of that meeting informed me that members of the Black Academic Caucus strongly contested his conclusion, taking its position as a formal UCT “Interest Group” committed to the belief that UCT “maintain[s] hegemonies and reproduces colonial relations of power”. Therefore, it was decided [by whom?] that Morrell’s initial results were not to be reported in the public domain.

Time passed. Coovadia (NRF C-rated; H-index = 2; nine years at UCT) and Mangcu (no NRF rating; H-index = 0; four years as a university-based academic) had been promoted ad hominem to full professor according to the new “open processes”. Subsequently, both of these academics have written public intellectual pieces (here and here) critical of Fallism. Mangcu was also charged with wrongly characterizing a UCT colleague as a racist and found to have defamed the person. At the other end of the spectrum he was reviled by Fallist “Comrades”. They characterized him as:

  1. an “imitation of his master [Max Price?] and treating radical black intellectuals, in the form of student activists, as perpetual under-16s” using “condescending and anti-black rhetoric”;
  2. an “ageist”, “self-indulgent” “pseudo-intellectual with many accolades who wallows in contradictions and massages and tip toes around whiteness” who “considers ‘black’ protesters as unthinking troublemakers”;
  3. “a house negro, embarrassed that there would be no seamless swaying of speeches in this “decolonial” space”;
  4. an “opportunist” who “uses the black struggle for upward mobility within academia” while he “continue[s] to please his Maasta”;
  5. having “the defeated psyche of a slave” who, “no matter how many decolonial lectures”, “remain[s] a kaffir to [his] white baas”.

The ‘post-dated’ falsification of Fallism

On 12 December 2018, several months after Price ceased to be VC at UCT, he, Morrell and co-authors published a scholarly paper, Academic promotions at a South African university: questions of bias, politics and transformation in the eminent (80% rejection rate) journal Higher Education. It concludes as follows:

“Overall, therefore, we find little quantitative evidence of any consistent pattern of promotion bias [at UCT].”

One wonders why this important finding took so long to find the academic domain and has yet to appear in the public domain and UCT NEWS in particular. Are there any more ‘post-dated’ revelations to come?

“Maybe, just maybe, those who maintain that UCT’s academics and leaders “despise” ‘blacks’, have “disappeared” them in favour of ’whites’ and have “sowed a culture of fear” among them might be wrong. Maybe, just maybe, the alleged racially-motivated emotional, cultural, symbolic, epistemic, structural and psychological violence and nuanced and invisible racism by some members of UCT’s community cannot be used to “trigger” and socially justify verbally and physically assaulting them. Maybe, just maybe, all these ”racists” want to do is to teach, learn and conduct curiosity-driven and socially-relevant research in peace and stop the censoring/burning of invited speakers and works of art and the tossing of Molotov cocktails at Jammie shuttle busses and the VC’s office.

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