(Academic Staff Association of Wits University) ASAWU noted the resignation of the Vice Chancellor and Principal, Prof Adam Habib, with effect from the end of this year. The Vice Chancellor has served Wits for 7 years under difficult times including #feesmustfall, and economic and political crises. We are aware that student enrolments, graduates, and research output have all increased during his tenure, primarily due to the tireless and selfless endeavours of ASAWU members and our academic, professional and administrative staff colleagues.
We note that during the same period:
- academic staff numbers have not increased in proportion to increased student numbers, and academic staff are now tasked with maintaining research outputs and high quality teaching while battling with increased class sizes and supervision workloads;
- millions of rand was paid in executive bonuses;
- the post-retirement medical aid benefits to which all employees were entitled were effectively abolished;
- more than R 100 million of reserves of the Wits Staff Medical Aid Scheme belonging to members were given to Discovery Medical Scheme;
- current and future pensioners are no longer assured of adequate medical cover for themselves and their dependents during their retirement;
- based on misinformation, the financial component of the long service awards was discontinued;
- there has been ongoing controversy over the handling of incidents of gender based violence and abuse; and
- performance-based remuneration was introduced, in contravention of the university’s Remuneration and Reward Policy and despite research demonstrating its ineffectiveness and inappropriateness in academic institutions.
While racial diversity of employees has increased during this period, we hope that the new Vice Chancellor makes progress on other dimensions of transformation, including institutional culture, employees living with disabilities, nepotism, gender based discrimination and violence, mental and emotional wellbeing, bullying, victimisation, employee morale, social justice, consistency of University policies, and reasonableness of workloads, while maintaining or improving our standing as a leading research intensive university.
Although Prof Habib has insisted that during the remainder of his tenure he will not be a lame duck Vice Chancellor, we are concerned that transitional arrangements in the entire Senior Executive Team may create uncertainty and impede the building of trust between Organised Labour and the University.
The views expressed here are the author’s personal opinion and do necessarily reflect the editorial policy of The Daily Vox.