By an overwhelming majority, the *Senate of Stellenbosch University (SU) on Friday (24 March 2023) adopted a motion of confidence in and support of the Rector and Vice-Chancellor, Prof Wim de Villiers, and his management team in their pursuit of inclusivity and multilingualism at SU.
The motion, tabled by Prof Geo Quinot of the Faculty of Law and seconded by Prof Mbulungeni Madiba, Dean of the Faculty of Education, read:
“Having noted the SAHRC [South African Human Rights Commission] report of 14 March and SU's response to it, Senate affirms its confidence in and support of the Rector and Vice-Chancellor and his management team in their pursuit of inclusivity and multilingualism at SU."
In motivating the motion, Prof Quinot submitted to Senate the following: “Having regard of the recent announcement in the public media by a SU council member of the intention to institute a motion of no confidence at Council in the Rector, Professor Wim de Villiers, based on the Human Rights Commission's investigative report into Allegations of Unconstitutional Language Practices at certain SU Residences of 14 March 2023, I would like to state that:
1. We as SU academic leaders are committed to multilingualism as set out by the SU Language Policy and indicated by the widespread implementation thereof by our university community.
2. The non-compliance with, or incorrect implementation of, such policy by certain groups and/or individuals in specific contexts within the institution does not support a vote of non-confidence in the Rector but rather supports a) the continued reflection by the university community on how to best become an inclusive and multilingual institution where everyone's rights are protected and promoted, and b) support of Management, including the Rector, to realise an inclusive and multilingual community through effective and thoughtful implementation of relevant policies in a complex, diverse and large institution.
3. Such collaborative pursuit would be appropriate to give effect to the constitutional responsibility to redress the wrongs of the past and the realisation of equality for all."
Prof Madiba supported the motion and said that he and the deans “view the intended no-confidence vote as a serious matter of concern, not only for the Rector, but for all of us, as language policy and planning matters in this university is a collective and collaborative effort.
As one of the leading experts of language policy and planning, I can confidently say the intended no-confidence vote against the Rector has no basis. What our university has achieved with regards to multilingualism is not matched by most universities in the country."
He added that the language policy has gone through the scrutiny of various courts including the Constitutional Court. “Even the South African Human Rights Commission report couldn't find any fault with regards to our language policy, except one phrase which it recommended should be changed.
We are not saying our language policy is perfect, as there is no such a policy in the world.
The Management, under the leadership of the Rector, has always demonstrated a commitment to inclusive multilingualism, and also provided the requisite budget for implementation.
Our budget on multilingualism is way above the budget of most other universities in the country.
Whilst it might be true that our language policy was not correctly interpreted by students at only two residences out of thirty-one residences during the orientation period as per the SAHRC report, these mistakes cannot be taken to represent the state of language policy implementation in the university and the overall performance of the Rector with regards to the implementation of multilingualism in the university."
He concluded by saying that there are “many good success stories to tell with regards to the implementation of inclusive multilingualism at our university which the respective council member chooses to ignore in pursuit of his intended no-confidence vote."