A WITS university professor is facing removal from the University Council, Wits’ highest decision-making body, for his reports on meetings, after the body’s executive accused him of “misrepresenting discussions at council” and “creating a misleading impression”.

The chair of the University Council, Randall Carollisen, announced in an email that there would be an investigation against Prof David Dickinson, who is an elected academic representative on the council. Dickinson had been sending regular reports to staff members about matters discussed in council, the most recent of which was on insourcing of workers and a decision to give bonuses to executive members of staff.

The executive bonuses could amount to as much as R3-million. This decision has been contested by both academics and Student Representative Council (SRC) members.
It was after Dickinson’s report about these bonuses and insourcing, that the council decided to establish an inquiry that would look into Dickinson’s conduct.
“It has been a problem for some time that Professor Dickinson either misrepresents discussions at Council or provides selective information that creates a misleading impression,” said Carollisen in a statement announcing the investigation.

Academic Staff Association of Wits University (Asawu) president David Hornsby said that there was a “collective concern” about the founding of the committee which permits an investigation and the potential removal of Dickinson from his office because of what he was sharing in his reports.
Hornsby also added that Dickinson had entered a written agreement regarding his communications and how they would be corrected of mistakes. Asawu believes that there has been no action warranting his potential removal.

Hornsby raised his concerns about what an investigation into Dickinson meant for transparency, academic freedom and the right of the academic community to know what happens in the governance of Wits. “It is really not acceptable to argue in a publicly-funded university, an institution where academics play an important role in governance on non-confidential matters, that there cannot be report backs,” he said. When reached for comment by Wits Vuvuzela, Carollisen declined to comment further about Dickinson’s potential removal from the council.
“Any speculation about Prof Dickinson’s future relationship with the council will be inappropriate at this stage,” he said.

It is not clear yet when the committee will start its meetings but Carollisen said that the committee would meet under the leadership of the deputy chair and would advise once they have completed their task.

Carollisen told Wits Vuvuzela that the University Council has “reaffirmed” executive bonuses as “variable pay” which would be allocated based on the executive members’ performance against both institutional and personal scorecards. If they qualify, they’ll receive variable pay on top of their guaranteed packages.  He said this is necessary to make executive compensation competitive with other universities and the private sector.

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