Dear Staff and Students
I am extremely pleased and humbled as I consider the enormous progress that our University continues to make. For example, on Monday, 22 May, the Winter season of our graduation ceremonies commenced with much celebration and joy.
Consider that during the course of this second of our three series of graduation ceremonies for the year, 2,184 graduates will walk the stage. When combined with our Autumn season of graduation ceremonies, then a combined total of 11, 681 graduates, including 485 Master’s and 79 Doctoral graduates, will have walked the stage by mid-June. This is an extraordinary accomplishment – almost 650 more graduates than at the same stage last year - for which we extend our appreciation and gratitude to our academic, professional and support staff and our students alike.
The past week has also been filled with many other momentous events and occasions as we continue to expand our unique UJ African and global footprint. On Monday, the UJ Convocation hosted a Leadership seminar with speakers coming from a wide array of fields.
They included former Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan, political analyst and journalist Justice Malala, brand communication specialist, author and strategic marketer, Musa Kalenga, economist and UJ Alumnus Mike Schussler, UJ academic Nickey Janse van Rensburg, and broadcaster and media specialist Debora Patta. This thought-provoking one-day leadership seminar focused on some of the pressing challenges facing our world, notably the economy, technology and the importance of sustainable and inclusive models of development.
Internationally renowned scholar, Adam Hanieh, is on tour in South Africa and is speaking on the themes covered in his book Lineages of Revolt: Issues of Contemporary Capitalism in the Middle East (AMEC: 2015), and we were privileged to host him at UJ on Tuesday, 23 May. In Lineages of Revolt, Hanieh explores neoliberal policies, dynamics of class and state formation, imperialism and the nature of regional capital accumulation, the significance of Palestine and the Gulf Arab states, and the ramifications of the global economic crisis. By mapping the complex and contested nature of capitalism in the Middle East, the book demonstrates that a full understanding of the uprisings needs to go beyond a simple focus on “dictators and democracy”.
On Wednesday, 24 May, the University conferred an honorary doctorate - Doctor Litterarum et Philosophiae (honoris causa) – on Professor Quarraisha Abdool Karim. In this manner we recognised Professor Karim’s exceptional health research and knowledge contribution to the global battle against HIV and AIDS. Prof Abdool Karim holds a professorship in Clinical Epidemiology from the Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University, USA, and is an honorary professor in Public Health at the Nelson Mandela School of Medicine, University of KwaZulu-Natal. She is also a visiting scientist at Massachusetts General Hospital and visiting lecturer at Harvard University. She has published extensively and has authored several books and book chapters, and is a NRF A-rated researcher. Due to the impact of her work on HIV prevention and treatment policies in South Africa, Africa and the world, she was awarded the 2016 L’Oréal-UNESCO for Women in Science Award, naming her as one of five “exceptional laureates”.
Over the last decade we have invested considerable and dedicated effort and resources to enable our first year students to make a successful transition to university, and our University is acknowledged nationally and internationally for our programmes and for their success. In recognition of UJ’s outstanding leadership in this field, notably the First Year Experience programme, the Department of Higher Education and Training funded the establishment of the South African National Resource Centre that is housed here at UJ. This is the very first such resource centre in the world outside of the USA. This past week, the Centre hosted the 3rd National SANRC FYE Conference that attracted approximately 100 attendees across the country and 35 attendees from the USA and Europe. At the conference, delegates engaged in the first National Orientation Summit aimed at creating good practice guidelines for student orientation in South African higher education.
Last week Friday, 19 May, the University officially launched the African Centre for Epistemology and Philosophy of Science (ACEPS) based in our Department of Philosophy. The aim of the Centre is to foster intra-African and global conversations in the areas of Epistemology and Philosophy of science by bringing African world views, values, insights and questions into meaningful conversation with other philosophical traditions. The work of the Centre is organised around three umbrella projects, namely, Indigenous Knowledge Systems; Health and Medicine in Africa; and, Rationality and Power. I wish to extend my personal congratulations to ACEPS founders, Professors Alex Broadbent, Veli Mitova, Dr Mongane Wally Serote, Dr Ben Smart, Chad Harris and Zinhle Mncube for this ground-breaking initiative.
Our ‘missing middle’ fundraising initiatives this past week reached a new pinnacle point, and I am pleased to inform you that our fundraising initiatives have thus far resulted in us raising R149M which is already significantly higher than last year. You may recall that last year we raised R101M that enabled us to fully settle the tuition fees of 3,858 ‘missing middle’ students. This is an unbelievable accomplishment and I wish to extend my deepest and sincerest appreciation and gratitude to our many donors and contributors that range from public entities to business and industry to our suppliers to our councillors and to executives and staff. Last Saturday morning I and some 1,200 staff, students, alumni and community members braved the morning chill to participate in the UJ Future Walk, and on which occasion we were able to raise R2M towards our ‘missing middle’ fund.
I wish to congratulate Professor Brandon Shaw, from the Faculty of Health Sciences, following his professorial inaugural address last night. Prof Shaw, with an address titled ““Resistance Exercise is Medicine”, emphasised that while resistance training is more commonly associated with injury rehabilitation, it is becoming increasingly important in the prevention of musculoskeletal injuries, and could perhaps contribute to the reduction of severity of such injuries. Professor Shaw is a NRF rated researcher, and has authored over 150 peer-reviewed national and international journals and numerous other publications with researchers from Africa, Asia, Europe, Middle East, and North and South America. Among many other roles, Prof Shaw is an honorary Research Fellow at Monash University (South Africa Campus) and Adjunct Full Professor at the University of Venda.
Yesterday we celebrated Africa Day, and we continue to do so today at our UJ Staff Day. Africa Day provides opportunity for us to reflect critically and discursively on our heritage as well as on contemporary and future Africa. I trust that we will continue to exchange thoughts and views on these important matters, and even more so within the context of the decolonisation of knowledge and of the University. Also, yesterday, with more than one hundred persons in attendance, our Pan African Institute for Thought and Conversation hosted an Africa day dialogue on Africa and the media.
Allow me also to repeat part of my message of last week, namely, when we purchase and consume food on our campuses then we must take responsibility to place the litter in our many bins around our campuses. While our new cleaning services staff and their supervisors and managers must keep our campuses spotless, it is equally the duty of students, staff and visitors not to litter. So let us commit ourselves to KEEPING OUR CAMPUSES CLEAN WITHOUT LITERRING!
Finally, I know that our students are burning the midnight oil as they sharpen their minds for the first semester examinations that commence tomorrow, Saturday, 27 May. On behalf of all of our staff I wish to extend our very best wishes. We know that you will excel!
With my best wishes
Prof Ihron Rensburg
Vice-Chancellor and Principal