The Council of Stellenbosch University held its second of four scheduled meetings for the year on Monday 20 June 2022. The Deputy Vice-Chancellor (DVC): Social Impact, Transformation and Personnel, Prof Nico Koopman, used his annual reporting opportunity to update Council on developments in his responsibility centre (RC) – Social Impact, Transformation and Personnel (SITP) – the past year. Read on for a summary of highlights.
In his report to Council (click here for the full document, and here for a PowerPoint presentation), Prof Koopman explained that Stellenbosch University (SU) had a comprehensive understanding of transformation. It covers all eight indicators articulated by Times Higher Education, i.e. transforming the institution, talent, internationalisation, teaching and learning, the student experience, impact, research, and leadership.
Moreover, SU does not view transformation as an add-on, but as systemic and embedded. Everyone should be involved, and all staff and students should experience inclusive ownership of the institution.
Prof Koopman said the goal of transformation at SU was to create an institution where there is dignity, healing, freedom, justice and equality for all, as envisioned in our country's Bill of Rights.
While some areas at SU had made good progress with transformation, others were lagging behind, Prof Koopman reported, adding that there was sadly even regress from time to time. Given events in May 2022, which resulted in the appointment of an independent commission of enquiry headed by Justice Sisi Khampepe, SU's transformation journey needs to accelerate and deepen.
A good foundation was laid at the annual Institutional Planning Forum in January, where transformation was a central theme. The second half of 2022 will see the drafting of a first Transformation Policy for SU (click here for more on this process), after which the institution's Transformation Plan will be revised. The influence of transformation structures, including those in faculties and RCs, will grow. And the Transformation Office, Equality Unit, Disability Unit and Institutional Committee for Transformation (both for staff and students) will continue to be strengthened.
Measures to accelerate staff diversification at SU include the implementation of the institution's Code for Employment Equity and Diversity. In addition, the role of employment equity representatives in academic appointment and promotion committees is being optimised. Monitoring and oversight mechanisms are also being strengthened all the way down to departmental level. And the Rector's Strategic Personnel Fund, introduced in 2015, is now a permanent line item in SU's integrated budget. (The DVC: Learning and Teaching will provide more detail on measures to advance the diversification of the student body when he tables his annual report in September.)
However, while the quantitative dimension is important, transformation should not be reduced to numbers alone. The qualitative dimension of transformation, which touches on the lived experience of staff and students at the University, is equally critical.
Much is already being done to renew our institutional culture, but this will be expanded even further. Prof Koopman said that both conscious and subconscious discriminatory prejudices – as embodied in policies, practices, structures and systems – would receive attention.
There is also a need to address the intellectual, ideological, cultural and religious legitimisation of prejudices, and their portrayal as 'normal'. All of this should be understood in the context of intersectionality, which means that even though the main focus is on 'race', there is also an interdependence with other categories of prejudice, such as gender, socioeconomic position, sexual orientation and disability.
“Going forward at SU, we need to move from 'diverse, thus apart' to 'diverse, yet together'," Prof Koopman said. “We must get comfortable with our differences. As a university, we are a learning community, so we should develop the necessary knowledge, values and skills to live together."
With transformation now constituting up to 25% of employees' key performance areas (KPAs), staff will increasingly be encouraged to participate in transformation courses, such as the existing Siyakhula programme and the new Shared Humanity modules being developed.
Visual redress will also continue, with the aim of building a new institutional culture.
The health and well-being of staff and students is a priority to SU, and a key component of our transformation journey. The results of the third Staff Culture and Climate Survey, which was conducted in 2021, are being discussed in various university environments, and recommendations and interventions will be finalised in the third term.
In addition, the work of the Institutional Committee for Staff Health and Wellbeing is gaining momentum. The committee, constituted in 2021, includes representatives from all faculties, responsibility centres and key institutional divisions.
SU's focus on health and wellbeing also continues through initiatives such as the Employee Assistance Programme, which is supported by Careways. (Click here for more information.)
Our Human Resources Division plays a critical role in transformation, among others through developing a new performance advancement framework, exploring options for flexible working arrangements, addressing the career progression of professional academic and administrative support services (PASS) staff, international recruitment, revising regulations for senior PASS appointments, and strengthening the work of the Human Resources and Remuneration committees of Council.
When Prof Wim de Villiers was inaugurated as Rector and Vice-Chancellor in 2015, he committed not only to the transformation of SU, but also to transformation by SU, Prof Koopman pointed out. To this end, the University aims to have a transformative impact on society through all three of its core functions of research, learning and teaching, as well as social impact (including volunteerism and other forms of community engagement).
Indeed, SU is committed to a transformative and restitutive social impact. Examples in the past year include initiatives relating to the Old Lückhoff School and the Hardekraaltjie cemetery.