The year's second scheduled meeting of the Stellenbosch University (SU) Council took place on 19 June 2017.
Matters discussed included campus security, the appointment of deans, the name change of SU's main library, the report by the End RapeCulture task team, SU's ascent in the QS world university rankings, research at SU, the annual report of the Responsibility Centre: Social Impact, Transformation and Personnel, and the largest ever individual donation to SU.
More details follow below, but I would like to emphasise that Council is very unhappy about the crime situation. We noted with appreciation the University's safety measures, but also requested that awareness campaigns be increased even further and that students and staff take heed. Council further called on the South African Police Service and Stellenbosch Municipality to continue collaborating with the University and spare no effort in curbing crime.
Chairperson: SU Council
Safety and security
Council expressed concern about crime following the rape and murder of Ms Hannah Cornelius and the violent assault on Mr Cheslin Marsh, both SU students who were hijacked in Stellenbosch on 27 May. While this incident made headlines, other SU students and staff also fall prey to criminals from time to time – on campus, in town and surrounding areas, as well as elsewhere in the country. Council expressed its sympathy with all those affected.
At the meeting, SU Rector and Vice-Chancellor Prof Wim de Villiers again confirmed that the safety and security of students and staff members remained paramount to the University. Chief Operating Officer Prof Leopoldt van Huyssteen pointed out that Campus Security followed a four-pronged strategy, namely (i) patrols and response services by its own as well as contracted staff; (ii) monitoring by means of advanced technology; (iii) safety awareness drives; and (iv) strategic partnerships with external stakeholders. The fact that the University is not fenced, but completely integrated with Stellenbosch town does pose certain challenges.
Council ratified the appointment of three deans at the recommendation of its Joint Appointments Committee, with due regard to the advice and recommendations of the relevant selection committees, faculty boards and Senate. This is for the faculties of Arts and Social Sciences, AgriSciences, as well as Theology. An announcement will follow when the candidates have accepted their appointment.
With regard to the position of dean of the Faculty of Economic and Management Sciences, Council resolved that the appointment process be repeated. The Joint Appointments Committee did not decide on employability or preference, as none of the shortlisted candidates had obtained majority support from the faculty board or Senate. Prof Johan Malan is acting as dean in the meantime.
Regarding the Faculty of Education, Council agreed that the process for the appointment of a dean not resume immediately. The previous candidate-designate accepted a job offer abroad, which affords the Rector's Management Team (RMT) the opportunity to carefully reassess the academic functions, activities, size and shape of the Faculty. The Faculty and all relevant role-players will be consulted in the process. A recommendation in this regard is expected to be tabled at the last Council meeting of the year. In the meantime, Prof Yusef Waghid is acting as dean.
Finally, Council noted the appointment of Dr Leslie van Rooi, currently deputy director of the Centre for Student Structures and Leadership as well as head of the Frederik Van Zyl Slabbert Institute for Student Leadership Development, as the new Senior Director: Social Impact and Transformation with effect from 1 July. This position replaces the former position of Senior Director: Community Interaction, which was held by Dr Jerome Slamat, who is now Executive Manager: Rectorate.
Name change of the library
Council noted the recent decision of its Executive Committee to change the name of SU's main library to Stellenbosch University Library ("Universiteit Stellenbosch Biblioteek" in Afrikaans, and "Ithala leencwadi leYunivesity yaseStellenbosch" in isiXhosa). This library below the Rooiplein was officially opened in 1984. At the time, it was named after Rev JS Gericke, who served as SU Vice-Chancellor from 1952 to 1981 (then still a ceremonial position separate from the post of Rector).
The name change is implemented at the recommendation of SU's Committee on the Naming of Buildings, Venues and Objects. The committee deliberated on the matter on 31 October 2016 as part of a broader transformation process to establish a welcoming culture at SU. The task team appointed to investigate the matter followed an inclusive process. From the consultations, most respondents seemed in favour of the name change.
Report by the End RapeCulture task team
Council welcomed the report by the End RapeCulture task team, which was established by the RMT in March 2016 to examine the culture underpinning gender violence on campus. The team found that – at SU, just as in the rest of society – gender violence is a pervasive problem not only violating the victims, but affecting everyone. According to the task team, rape culture is everyone's problem, and everyone is part of the solution.
In the Rector's management report, it was pointed out that the term "rape culture" was first described internationally in the 1970s. It is defined as acts in which sexual aggression and victimisation are normalised due to societal attitudes on gender and sexuality. Behaviours commonly associated with rape culture include sexual objectification, the blaming of victims, and refusing to acknowledge the harm caused by forms of sexual violence. These are challenges faced by society as a whole – in South Africa, but also in the rest of the world.
The task team deliberated on the most appropriate strategies for facilitating a change at SU. The primary recommendations include:
- End RapeCulture training for all students and staff, including senior management;
- support for anti-RapeCulture initiatives; and
- the establishment of a monitoring committee to ensure that the recommendations in the task team report are carried out.
The RMT already pledged its support to the report and its recommendations.
SU's ascent in the QS world university rankings
Council welcomed the announcement that SU had risen even further in the QS world university rankings. SU is now ranked second in South Africa after it came third in 2016/17 (and is ranked 361st overall, over against 395th previously). This improvement can be attributed to, among others, the fact that SU now boasts the country's highest number of research citations per publication.
Showcasing SU researchers and their impact
Council took delivery of SU's latest research report, which looks back on highlights in 2016. The report is published annually by the University's Division for Research Development. Research at Stellenbosch University 2016 is available online at http://bit.ly/2rBAO5y.
Report of the Vice-Rector: Social Impact, Transformation and Personnel
At this meeting, it was the turn of SU Vice-Rector: Social Impact, Transformation and Personnel Prof Nico Koopman to table an annual report on his responsibility centre. Visit http://bit.ly/2tNqAj4 for the full report.
A highlight is the steady progress made with diversifying the University's staff corps. Two years ago, only 18% of academic staff were black (African, coloured or Indian). This figure has since grown to 24%. One of the contributing factors has been the 33 appointments and promotions made since January 2016 by means of the Rector's Strategic Personnel Fund.
Largest ever individual donation to SU
Council noted with gratitude that SU had received its largest ever individual donation – an amount of R195 million. This huge gift came in the form of a bequest by the late Mr DW Ackermann. Although he never studied at Stellenbosch, he had a connection with the University through his wife, the late Mrs Sophia Ackermann, a Matie alumna. Upon his death in 2006, he left SU shares to the value of R8 million, although it was subject to his wife's usufruct. When she passed away in February this year, the bequest fell to SU. By then, the value of the shares had grown to the above amount. As stipulated in Mr Ackermann's will, the University will use the bequest to establish the DW Ackermann Bursary Fund.
The next Council meeting is scheduled for 27 September 2017.