The Unit will now report directly to Deputy Vice-Chancellor (DVC): Learning and Teaching, Prof Deresh Ramjugernath.
The move comes after much thought had been given to the positioning of the Unit within the University, and how to best provide services and support to staff and students.
“I am very happy with the repositioning of the Equality Unit as a functionary that reports directly to the Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Learning and Teaching. This institutional strategy will enhance the efforts to address gender-based violence (GBV), sexual harassment, unfair discrimination, as well as all the other initiatives managed by the Unit, and will enable an efficient implementation, monitoring, and evaluation thereof in an integrated action plan at SU,” said DVC: Learning and Teaching, Prof Deresh Ramjugernath.
The Equality Unit plays an important institutional role in highlighting and combatting unfair discrimination and harassment, and GBV, and provides staff and students with training, development, and support services for HIV, STIs, gender non-violence, and sexualities.
“Our shift to the Responsibility Centre: Learning and Teaching will have direct impact on our institutional efficiency and provide additional engagement and support to SU staff, the student body, leadership and various SU structures. Through this realignment, we affirm our commitment to the staff and students of SU to root out inequality and to keep trust and credibility,” said Jaco Greeff Brink, Head of the Equality Unit.
Brink added: “The foundation of our work is rooted in the South African Constitution, Bills of Rights, and the Unfair Discrimination and Harassment and HIV/Aids policies of SU, so that we make a distinctive contribution not only to the SU community, but to intentionally influence our broader society, as well as contribute in a VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous) world through empathy, leadership, critical engagement, review and humble assertiveness.”
With this shift, the intent is to engage more with the SU community through initiatives that are being developed to strengthen the functioning of the Unit and the services it provides. Currently the Unit is working to highlight cyberbullying through its anti-cyberbullying campaign which will launch on 26 July 2021. It has launched faculty and departmental information roadshows that gives insight on the support services offered to staff.
The Unfair Discrimination and Harassment and HIV/Aids policies are also currently under review. New additions will strengthen the guidelines which govern the work done by the Equality Unit, specifically on GBV. Implementing an online reporting, monitoring and evaluation tool is a priority and will be crucial to determine whether the work being done is effective and integrated across SU stakeholders.
“Equality is a crucial constitutional principle, and the Equality Unit at Stellenbosch University plays an institutional role. Therefore, DSAf realised how important it was to drive the process to give the Unit the stature and importance it deserves,” said Dr Choice Makhetha, Senior Director: Student Affairs.
“The Equality Unit needed to report directly to Rectorate level, to speed up decision making and also to hold the institution accountable on critical equality issues.
“Our colleagues at Equality Unit will remain very close to our hearts as they begin this new journey and will continue to be our partners in efforts to address equality issues. We wish them well and I know that they will continue to serve SU exceptionally well,” she added.
With this shift, it is hoped that the Unit can better support SU staff and students to bring about equality and a transformative experience for all at SU.
The Equality Unit would like to extend a special thanks to Dr Makhetha, Dr Munita Dunn-Coetzee, Director at CSCD, and colleagues at CSCD and DSAf for their invaluable support over the years.
A reminder of the support services offered to staff and students
The Equality Unit provides support services to staff and students. These are testing, counselling, and training on HIV and STIs; training and development, counselling and support to LGBTQIA+ individuals; gender non-violence support and training; and mediation services to resolve conflict resolution. Staff and students can report incidents of unfair discrimination and harassment, gender-based violence, and sexual harassment by contacting the Unit at firstname.lastname@example.org. A case officer will be assigned to deal with the complaint. For HIV-related services, contact email@example.com. For staff, there is a confidential ethics and reporting hotline which is independently administered by KPMG. Staff can contact 0800 20 45 49 or firstname.lastname@example.org.