Statement on the 'Rhodes must fall' campaign by the Faculty of Health Sciences’ leadership

30 Mar 2015 - 10:45

Image courtesy:UCT News

The leadership of the Faculty of Health Sciences, comprising the Deanery and Heads of Department, hereby states its position on the current ‘Rhodes must fall’ campaign, which has sparked unprecedented debate and activism at UCT on a scale not seen since the advent of democracy twenty one years ago.

We acknowledge the pain and anger evoked by the symbolism not only of the Rhodes statue, but other symbols and names that celebrate colonialism and apartheid.

We understand that the call for the removal of the Rhodes statue is symbolic of a deeper issue, namely, the lack of transformation at UCT. We recognize that it is indicative of our failure as a nation to achieve true democracy thereby translating into the alienation experienced by black students and staff at UCT.  We are encouraged by the students’ and staff expressions and their call to action for the University to accelerate transformation on all fronts.

We believe that the University’s and specifically our Faculty’s student body and staff complement must more closely reflect the demographics of the population of our country. Our curriculum and research must address our collective heritage, environment and developmental needs. Our institutional culture must celebrate our rich history, diversity and talent in an affirming and inclusive manner, so as to accord the dignity and respect to black staff and students as we continue to build a non-racial democracy.

We recognise that our Faculty has been slow in implementing transformation, as articulated in the Faculty Charter we adopted on 9 May 2002.  

We acknowledge that we have not fully embraced the definition of transformation adopted by our Faculty in the year 2000, as “ a process of negotiated organisational change that breaks decisively with the past discriminatory practices in order to create an environment where the full potential of everyone is realised and where diversity, both social and intellectual is respected and valued and where it is central to the achievement of the Faculty’s goals” .

We support constructive engagement with all constituencies of the UCT community to develop and implement interventions to fast-track transformation.

To this end, we:

  • Support the UCT Senior Leadership‘s commitment to move the Rhodes statue as soon as possible, and to embark on an all-inclusive process to address transformation;
  • Believe that this presents UCT and our Faculty with the opportunity to accelerate the process of re-engineering itself as fully responsive to its environment, to effect genuine transformation;
  • Will meaningfully engage with our students and staff on transformation in the Faculty, with a view to implementing concrete interventions to fast-track transformation, predicated on a recommitment to the principles of our Faculty Charter (see attached).

In order to facilitate this process, we will be hosting a Faculty wide assembly to give students and staff the space and opportunity to voice their opinions and to make recommendations on how we as a Faculty should move forward to ensure that we do so in a meaningful, inclusive and constructive way.

When engaging on the topic of this campaign, we call on all staff and students to:

  • Do so in a professional and responsible manner;
  • Undertake to refrain from actions and words that may be perceived as being sexist, racist and homophobic; and
  • To embrace the principle of reconciliation that was bequeathed to us by Madiba.

Let us recommit ourselves, in honour of the Madiba’s legacy, to building a strong Faculty that is committed to transformation and equity and reflects the diversity of our country and thereby making staff and students proud of their association with this institution.

Professor Gregory Hussey on behalf of the Faculty leadership.

Interim Dean

25th March 2015