The Stellenbosch University (SU) Council held its third meeting of 2021 on Monday 27 September.
Council took note of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and its negative effect on society. We mandated management to work towards the urgent development of a rule on COVID-19 vaccination for students and staff for the 2022 academic year.
We also reaffirmed our commitment to a uniform brand for SU by giving the go-ahead for the development of a ceremonial version of the new corporate logo to replace the institution's current heraldic crest.
In addition, Council approved two policies – one on visual redress, and another on assessment – both for implementation with effect from 1 January 2022.
We received a report from our Language Committee and considered the second draft of the revised SU Language Policy. The policy is being revised this year, its fifth year of operation, as required by its own provisions.
Council also initiated the process of appointing a new Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Research, Innovation and Postgraduate Studies to succeed Prof Eugene Cloete, who will be retiring at the end of June 2022, and confirmed the reappointment of Prof Sam Tshehla as Dean of Military Science.
Please read on for more about these and other matters we dealt with on Monday.
Best regards and stay safe.
Chair: SU Council
Management mandated to urgently develop COVID-19 vaccination rule
SU Rector and Vice-Chancellor Prof Wim de Villiers told Council that it is an institutional priority for the University that all its staff and students be fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
“Vaccines are safe, and they save lives. Our message is that getting vaccinated is the responsible thing to do. So, we have been urging everyone to get the vaccine," he said.
The University has been conducting an awareness drive since the rollout of the national vaccination programme in February this year, and established its own vaccination site at the Lentelus sports grounds in Hammanshand Road in Stellenbosch, which serves SU staff and students as well as the broader public. SU Chief Operating Officer Prof Stan du Plessis reported to Council that 518 staff members, 2 236 students and 1 472 members of the community had received their jabs at Lentelus since 10 August 2021, while many others also continue to make use of vaccination facilities elsewhere.
Prof De Villiers confirmed that SU is exploring the possibility of mandatory vaccinations, learning from the experience of other institutions and organisations in South Africa and worldwide. To this end, SU's Institutional Committee for Business Continuity (ICBC) appointed a task team on 27 August 2021 to conduct the risk assessment required in terms of a health and safety direction promulgated in June 2021.
Council discussed the matter, and subsequently adopted the following motion: “The SU Council mandates management to work towards the urgent development of a rule on vaccination for students and staff for the 2022 academic year. Staff and students are reassured that due process will be followed in terms of consultation and risk management."
Prof Du Plessis stated: “A vaccine rule will determine the extent to which staff and students can work and study at the University depending on their vaccination status. It will describe the expectation, as well as the criteria for exceptions."
Prior to Monday's meeting, the assumption was that Council would take a decision on the University' vaccination rule at its last meeting of the year, on 2 December 2021. But SU Council Chair Mr George Steyn explained that “because it is a matter of life and death, Council agreed that its Executive Committee (EC(C)) would be entitled to take a decision as soon as possible to avoid any delays".
Commitment to uniform SU brand reaffirmed
Council ratified the recommendation of its Executive Committee to replace the institution's current heraldic crest with a ceremonial version of the new corporate logo.
A suggested design will be tabled at the Council meeting scheduled for 2 December 2021, for consideration and approval. This, however, will be preceded by consultations with such SU structures as the Rectorate, Institutional Transformation Committee, Visual Redress Committee, Institutional Forum and Students' Representative Council.
In April this year, Council approved a new logo for SU. That was the first milestone in the development of a new visual identity for the University. The heraldic crest is next in line to be aligned with the decision in favour of a uniform brand architecture.
While the corporate logo operates as the University's commercial brand, the ceremonial version of the logo will serve as the University's registered accreditation symbol. The ceremonial version will replace the current heraldic crest as SU's highest mark, to be used for formal ceremonial purposes and the endorsement of academic achievements on degree certificates.
Visual Redress Policy
Council approved a Visual Redress Policy for SU to assist the institution in its transformation drive. The policy will guide visual changes on SU campuses, specifically through new art installations, the removal or contextualisation of historically sensitive art and other symbols, campus signage, and the naming and renaming of buildings, venues and other facilities and premises.
The implementation of the policy is envisaged to have a direct impact on the renewal of SU's institutional culture, as outlined in the University's Transformation Plan. The Visual Redress Policy emphasises the celebration of diversity by calling for forms of art, symbols, architecture and other expressions that deliberately share something of the rich historic and cultural heritage of Stellenbosch, the Western Cape, South Africa and the rest of the continent.
The draft policy followed the full institutional consultation route before serving before Council. It was presented to all faculty boards, the Social and Business Ethics Committee of Council, the Rectorate, the Institutional Forum, chief and senior directors, the Institutional Transformation Committee, the Visual Redress Committee and the Naming Committee. It was also the subject of a full 30-day public participation process. The policy will take effect on 1 January 2022 and will be available in SU's digital institutional repository as soon as possible.
Renaming of the RW Wilcocks Building ratified
Council ratified the renaming of the RW Wilcocks building to the Krotoa building. The EC(C) approved the renaming at its meeting of 16 August 2021 after the Rectorate received a shortlist of proposals from the Committee for the Naming of Buildings, Venues and Other Facilities/Premises in June. Following extensive debate and taking various aspects into consideration, including Krotoa's complex personal history, the Rectorate proposed the name to the EC(C). Click here to read more.
Council approved a revised Assessment Policy for SU. The policy aims to provide (i) a flexible framework that delivers robust assessments across all academic programmes and modules, and (ii) a system that effectively promotes students' learning and evaluates their achievements for certification.
SU recognises that assessment is an integral part of learning and teaching. Therefore, the Assessment Policy links up with SU's Teaching and Learning Policy, which is aimed at “quality teaching and learning that embraces the rich potential of an increasingly diverse student body and the need for graduates who can contribute to a complex society".
In light of the move to online methods in the time of COVID-19, the importance of quality control to ensure the integrity of qualifications awarded by SU was a key discussion point at Monday's Council meeting. Council welcomed the fact that the revised Assessment Policy would apply to all assessment activities across the University, whether face-to-face or online, supervised or unsupervised, written or oral.
The policy was first approved in 2004 and last revised in 2012. This latest version will take effect on 1 January 2022. All ten of SU's faculties as well as all other relevant institutional structures, including the Institutional Forum and Senate, were consulted and provided input as part of the revision.
Language Committee and Policy
The Language Committee of Council provided feedback on its meeting of 30 August 2021, where the second draft of SU's reviewed Language Policy was among the items discussed.
SU's current Language Policy, which Council approved in 2016, is being revised this year – in its fifth year of operation, as prescribed by the policy itself.
The Language Committee thanked the chair and members of the Language Policy revision task team for their dedicated work to ensure that the process runs smoothly. The committee also highlighted certain points for the task team to consider. These included that multilingualism should receive special attention in both SU's teaching and services environments.
Council itself also considered the second draft of the revised Language Policy, as well as the response report on the second public engagement phase from 23 July to 14 August 2021. In addition, Council took note of the legal opinion dated 26 July 2021 on the validity of the proposed revised Language Policy. All of these documents also served before Senate on 10 September 2021 and are freely available on SU's website at www.sun.ac.za/language.
The task team will be finetuning the final draft in October, taking into account the inputs received during the second public engagement phase, as well as the feedback from faculty boards, the Institutional Forum, Senate and Council.
The final draft of the revised Language Policy will serve before Senate on 26 November 2021, and before Council on 2 December 2021. SU's Statute stipulates that Council determines the institution's Language Policy – in terms of the Higher Education Act 101 of 1997, as amended – with the concurrence of Senate.
Prof Mbulungeni Madiba, Dean of the Faculty of Education and an expert on language and its pedagogical value, has been appointed to the Language Committee as a co-opted member, and Mr Philip Visagé, Vice-Chair of the new Students' Representative Council (for the 2021/2 term), as student member.
Click on the following links for more information on the 2021 review of the Language Policy (2016) and language at SU.
Mid-year financial report
Council accepted its Executive Committee's recommendation to approve the mid-year financial report (as at 30 June 2021), as required by the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET). Moreover, while not a DHET requirement, the Executive Committee also recommended the approval of the mid-year financial report on the accommodation budget, which Council also accepted.
Council noted that the University – along with the rest of our sector – remained exposed to significant uncertainty, which created risks for the financial sustainability of the institution. A major concern is the effect of COVID-19 on government debt levels, and the knock-on effect this will have on the funding of higher education institutions going forward.
Council noted the appointment of Prof Sam Tshehla as Dean of the Faculty of Military Science for a further five-year term, with effect from 1 January 2022. While Prof Tshehla's second term expires at the end of the year, Council gave the go-ahead for the University to consider his reappointment at its previous meeting in June already. The relevant faculty board subsequently voted in favour.
Council initiated the process of appointing a new Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Research, Innovation and Postgraduate Studies to succeed Prof Eugene Cloete, whose second five-year term expires on 31 July 2022. A senior appointments committee has been formed under the leadership of the Council Chair, which responsibility will be taken over by the Deputy Chair of Council when the Chair vacates his position at the end of the year, although staying on as an ordinary Council member. Prof Aslam Fataar was appointed to the committee in his capacity as a Council member, and Ms Nadine Moody as his substitute if needed.
SU further ascends Times Higher Education ranking
In his quarterly management report to Council (click here for the complete document, and here for a slide show), Prof De Villiers pointed out that SU has further improved its position on the Times Higher Education (THE) World University Rankings. According to the 2022 edition of the rankings, which was released in early September, SU is now ranked second in South Africa. For more, click here.
Operations and Finance
Chief Operating Officer Prof Stan du Plessis presented Council with a detailed report on activities in the responsibility centre (RC) Operations and Finance over the past 12 months. The report covers the operations of the divisions of Finance, Facilities Management, Innovus and SUNCOM, Maties Sport and Information Technology during this period. Click here for his full report, and here for his slides.
Strategy, Global and Corporate Affairs
The annual report of the RC for Strategy, Global and Corporate Affairs (previously known as Strategy and Internationalisation) also served at Council on Monday. Over the past 12 months, the RC led significant initiatives to achieve its strategic priorities, which, at the same time, also advanced the University's vision and strategy. These included the rebranding project, the establishment of a structure for issue-based and executive communication, the visualisation of data for the scorecard to track the University's progress with its strategy, and strong growth in global partnerships and other internationalisation activities. Click here to read the full report.
An honorary degree is the highest honour a university can bestow, and the recipients are held up to the student community as people in whose footsteps they should strive to follow. Council adopted a motion proposing an investigation into the conferment of honorary degrees by SU with a view to improving the process and making the most of this valuable practice.
Council members Messrs Hubert Brody and Ainsley Moos have been appointed to the Honorary Degrees Committee. They will serve up until 31 December 2022. Council also approved an amended mandate for this committee.
Council welcomed Ms Viwe Kobokana and Mr Philip Visagé, the new Students' Representative Council Chair and Vice-Chair respectively, as new members. Their Council term will run until 19 September 2022.
In addition, Council took leave of Adv Gesie van Deventer, whose term as SU Council member designated by the Stellenbosch municipal council will end on 30 November 2021.
The following Council members were congratulated on recent achievements:
- Mr Wayde Davidse, on having completed the Postgraduate Diploma in Public Procurement Policy and Regulation
- Adv Jean Meiring, on having made the shortlist for the kykNET Rapport award for book reviewer of the year, which acknowledged the best Afrikaans reviews from 2020
- Prof Aslam Fataar, on his recently published book Evoking Transformation: Visual Redress at Stellenbosch University (African Sun Media), co-authored with Prof Elmarie Costandius
The next meeting of Council is scheduled for 2 December 2021.
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- Photograph above: Spring in Victoria Street, Stellenbosch. PICTURE: ANNEKE MÜLLER