With reference to recent articles pertaining to Stellenbosch alumni and the Stellenbosch University (SU) Convocation, as well as a statement circulated by the Executive Committee of the Convocation, SU must point out various factual errors.
It is important to note that the University's alumni differ from the Stellenbosch University Convocation. Alumni include everyone who studied at the University up to the second year of study. The Convocation is composed of: (a) all persons on whom a qualification has been conferred at a congregation of the University; (b) the rector, the vice-rectors, chief operating officer and the full-time academic staff of the University; and (c) former full-time academic staff of the University who have left the service of the University on account of their having reached a retirement age.
According to the University's Statute, the objective of the Convocation – and thus also of the Executive Committee of the Convocation – is to “promote the welfare of the University by maintaining a mutually beneficial relationship between the University and the members of the Convocation, and may advise the Council, and the Senate when applicable, in this respect." The Convocation is part of the SU community. It is not a separate legal entity and cannot litigate against the University.
The Statute further states that the Executive Committee of the Convocation helps the Convocation achieve its objective and perform its function. It gives effect to decisions of the Convocation.
The University points out that the Executive Committee of the Convocation did not consult with the Convocation before distributing its statement as referred to in the abovementioned article.
It is further incorrect to state that the Convocation has reached a decision to bring a motion as this has not taken place. The Convocation needs to give the Executive Committee of the Convocation the authority to do so.
Based on this, an employee cannot make a decision on distribution of the statement, and when the request by the Executive Committee of the Convocation was escalated, the Rectorate did not regard it as prudent to distribute a statement to the Convocation that did not follow the required process. Of note is that the statement was distributed to Council members.
The Executive Committee of the Convocation consists of 5 people: the President of the Convocation who serves as Chairperson at meetings of the Convocation; the Vice-President who serves as Chairperson at the meetings of the Convocation in the absence of the President; the Secretary of the Convocation; and two members elected as set out in 3.2 in the Procedure for the nomination and election of the Executive Committee of the Convocation.
Additional salient facts to note:
- There are more than 230 000 SU alumni. In this instance it would, at most, be the five members of the Executive Committee of the Convocation that may have indicated that they are “up in arms" as referred to in media reports. For that matter it also cannot be the SU Convocation, as they have not met and have taken no decision prior to the release of this statement by the Executive Committee of the Convocation.
- For the above reasons it also cannot be the University's alumni, who were “unable to distribute the motion" as also referred to in reports - it was the Executive Committee of the Convocation who wanted their statement distributed.
- Also, there is no motion of “no confidence" by the Convocation. Members of the Executive Committee of the Convocation called for the resignation of the Vice-Chancellor.
- The Executive Committee of the Convocation is not in a position to give an “official instruction" to the University to distribute the statement. The SU Statute and the institutional rules for the Convocation – both available on the University's website – set out the role and mandate of the Convocation and the Executive Committee of the Convocation.
- The “internal circular to staff last week confirming the admission of a second relative under the discretionary programme" was distributed by the University and not by the acting chair of Council, Dr Nicky Newton-King.
- With regards to a sentence in a News24 article, “Earlier this week, News24 reported that a second family member had been placed at the university without De Villiers disclosing it to the council", the University points out that it was Rector and Vice-Chancellor who has drawn the attention of members of the Executive Committee of Council to the fact that he used his discretion under the same policy and Discretionary Placement Guidelines to place another relative earlier in a programme at SU.
- The SU Statute is available here.
- The institutional rules for the Convocation is available here.