The real state of UCT

In reply to Russell Ally Tim Crowe highlights a number of worrying trends at the university

Dr Ally’s first reply to Johnson/Hughes refers to “facts”. His second refers to “hopes”.

When will the UCT Executive actually present “facts” in their possession or make a meaningful attempt to get those needed to settle this matter?

I deal with Ally 2 by addressing his words verbatim backed up with “facts”.

“Without transformation UCT will be destroyed”

Yes - But it can also be destroyed if the “transformation” ‘implemented’ removes nationally/globally prized substance (e.g. curricula/staff) without replacing it/them with something as good or better. It can also be destroyed if academics are hired or promoted without internationally defensible scrutiny.

I have seen/heard no (none, nada, nihil) transformed curricula for any department at UCT. What I have seen/heard is that the ideas of people must (not should) be removed from curricula because of the gender and geographical/historical provenance of those who generated them.

What I have seen/heard is that corroborated scientific evidence should be dismissed if it conflicts with ideology or subjective views of those in positions of power.

For example, a newly ad hominem-promoted professor in the Faculty of Humanities dismissed human genetic and archaeological evidence of the relative timing or the arrival of San, Khoi and Nguni Africans in southern Africa as “eugenics” (the vile policy of controlling which ‘forms’ of humanity should be allowed to breed).

With regard to ad hominem promotion to full professor, there are (not seem to be) now different standards employed by different faculties. For example The Faculty of Science specifies that successful applicants need to demonstrate internationally peer-reviewed research achievement evidenced by a high (A or B) rating by the South African National Research Foundation (NRF) or h-index (a measure of the extent to which epistemological peers cite their work).

For example, my NRF rating was B and my h-index was 22 at the time of my ad hominem promotion (25 years after completing my Ph.D.). Second, a widely cited independent assessment maintains that a professor should have an h-index of >15. The faculty also asks for evidence of educational excellence as measured in the career success of an applicant’s graduated students.

That is, do they get jobs and excel in them? For example, I’d produced 22 employed graduates at the time of my promotion, three of whom were senior lecturers/associate professors.

These criteria are conspicuously absent in those published by the Faculty of Humanities. The result of this is that at least two applicants were promoted last year who are lacking in the extreme according to these criteria.

One has no NRF rating, an h-index of zero and lists no graduated post-grads in his CV. The other has a NRF C rating (characteristic of Science lecturers or maybe senior lecturers), an h-index of 6 and also lists no employed graduate students. Both ‘publish’ conspicuously as ‘public intellectuals’.

Finally, advocates of transformation are aggressively pursuing the strategy of allowing non-peer-reviewed ‘public intellectual’ opinion pieces published in the mass media to be used as evidence of academic/research ‘achievement’ at UCT. This is certainly not a strategy employed by any world-class university with which I am familiar.

If this is not evidence of lowering academic standards I don’t know what is.

”My article is NOT a UCT institutional position.”

Then, like many public intellectuals, why did you submit both of your pieces under the heading “head of UCT Development and Alumni Department” or at least indicate, unambiguously, that the views expressed are your own, not UCT’s official position?

 “I never accused either Johnson or Hughes of being racists.”

Short of using the word, yes you did without any ambiguity.

“My article is polemical”.

No, it wasn’t. Polemical arguments are “strongly critical, controversial, or disputatious”. You questioned the Johnson’s/Hughes’ motives to the point of defamation.

“And for this I make no apologies.”

Given your past pieces declaring yourself and the UCT Executive to be “on the right side of history”, I’m not surprised.

“Hughes and Johnson use scaremongering”

And accusing them of warning about the implications of “marauding natives” is not?

By suggesting that J/H’s criticism of “what [transformation] is presently happening at UCT” is “bigotry” brings only “discredit” to your position within the UCT hierarchy and the UCT Executive in general.

“I would never be so arrogant or presumptuous to assume that ALL alumni (or even a MAJORITY of alumni) share my view.” My emphasis.

So, if you were to learn that a majority of the alumni disagree with you, would you resign or will the UCT Executive fire you?

“… the factual evidence I presented”

Was but a snapshot of what’s happened over a year or so. You have access to long-term data that could show trends, but don’t present them. Why?

“… most alumni, white and black, would see through the ideological bias of Johnson and Hughes’ respective arguments.”

Noted public intellectual Thomas Johnson (a self-identified ‘black’) certainly did not. Why not survey alumni to find out? Indeed, I have called, time and again for a democratic survey (by anonymous ballot) of the ENTIRE UCT Community to express its views (partitioned by self-identification) on a range of matters. Your and the UCT Executive’s silence on this appeal are deafening.

“My hope was that it would cause them to want to investigate for themselves what is actually happening at UCT academically and then come to an informed opinion.”

The UCT Executive has the tools to do conduct such an investigation [as it is currently doing with elections for UCT’s Council and possible changes in the names of buildings], why doesn’t it do so to inform themselves and the alumni?”

“… challenge the notion that transformation means the decline of standards or the “dumbing down” of the university as this is really the central thrust of both Johnson and Hughes.”

This is already demonstrable with regard to ad hominem promotion. I guess the Maths Department or the purpose-designed Faculty for Higher Education Development can look into Hughes’ allegations. But, will they?

Let me put it straight and unambiguously. There are subsets of the UCT Community that are bent on ‘transforming’ it in ways that disturb me profoundly as a long-term, demonstrably successful educator and researcher. These have nothing to do with the fact that I am a self-identified ‘white’, Irish-American, old, heterosexual male. For what that’s worth.

I, my wife and daughter are all UCT alumni having “invested” nearly 90 combined years in its development, including nearly 15 years in “academic support” education. The words and actions of Dr Ally and the UCT Executive give us considerable sadness and “pain”. Does this count for nothing?

“But we must NOT confuse freedom of expression with academic freedom.”

They ARE the SAME. The desecration of ‘painful’ artworks and the exclusion of lecturers cannot be promoted by saying that they’re not.

Emeritus Prof. Tim Crowe