Stellenbosch University (SU) has “achieved a lot in a short space of time", and as staff “we have also learnt a lot together", which has helped SU move forward during this unprecedented time.
This was the message from SU's Rector and Vice-Chancellor, Prof Wim de Villiers to staff who virtually attended the University's second staff assembly of the year on Wednesday (5 August 2020). Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the University had to move the event online, making it the first staff assembly to be held online.
“We are clearly running a marathon, not a sprint. We must build our stamina, as we still have a long way to go. In this type of race, it is a question of mind over matter. Persisting and persevering in tough times takes a lot – both physically and mentally, but if we continue working as a team, I have no doubt that we shall overcome," said De Villiers
He also thanked staff for their ongoing commitment and carrying on with the important work as a research-intensive public university.
Members of SU's Rectorate briefed staff on important developments since the University's last staff assembly in February, specifically highlighting SU's response and efforts to help combat the coronavirus.
“I'm so proud of how our University community is rallying in response to the coronavirus pandemic. From hundreds of Tygermaties volunteering to serve on the frontline, to very many multi-disciplinary coronavirus-related research projects and activities unfolding across various faculties, I have really been impressed by how well things have been coordinated to keep SU going."
Some of the institutional highlights presented during the assembly included:
- The importance of setting up an Institutional Committee for Business Continuity (ICBC) in February already, consisting of seven work streams covering various aspects of the University, which has helped SU act in unison as an institution and to save the academic year.
- SU's Division of Social Impact (DSI) collaborating with various partners to support local COVID-19 initiatives, including the Stellenbosch Municipality and provincial government departments.
- SU managing to still award qualifications, with the University having its first-ever virtual graduation on 3 April.
- The University being in the process of refreshing its brand and visual identity. Over the next few months, there will be an opportunity for staff to participate in the development of a new institutional logo.
- SU successfully switching to e-learning, with academic staff creating many online resources for students and the University ensuring that no student is left behind. More than 1 700 loan laptops were couriered to the homes of students all over South Africa and the University provided data bundles to students for access to learning materials.
- Various internationalisation efforts had to continue online, which resulted in some difficulties, but also created an opportunity for creativity and innovation with international partners.
- A virtual African Doctoral Academy (ADA) Winter School was held during July. It was the ADA's first venture into the world of online teaching, and it was well received by the 100+ delegates.
- SU also upgraded its health and wellbeing measures, to specifically help staff during the ongoing pandemic. It includes creating the Employee Assistance Programme, coaching services, webinars and having informal support groups.
- The University also incorporated more flexible and contextual HR measures to address performance management; expectations regarding different categories of staff; leave and e-mail practices.
Click here to watch a recording of the staff assembly.
Click here to download the presentation.