Witsies ask for practical leaders

David Hornsby, International Relations lecturer who chaired the debate (left), with Prof Rob Moore, Deputy Vice Chancellor: Advancement and Partnerships.

The dispute between Wits management and unions is not a short-term fix, and should be addressed “very consciously and deliberately” by incoming members of the Senior Executive Team, according to Prof Rob Moore.

The Deputy Vice Chancellor (DVC): Advancement and Partnerships was speaking at a Leadership Forum, organised by the Academic Staff Association of Wits University (ASAWU) on Monday, to debate the type of leadership needed at Wits.

The SET will undergo major changes soon, with the DVC: Academic, Prof Yunus Ballim, and the DVC: Finance and Operations, Prof Patrick Fitzgerald, vacating their offices at the end of this year.

Vice Chancellor Prof Loyiso Nongxa will end his extended five-year term in May 2013, and his post has been advertised as a vacancy.

Speaking in his personal capacity, Moore said the dispute had created a stressful time, but it was commendable that academics could have heated debates with management in Senate meetings, and still enjoy tea and sandwiches “in a perfectly amiable manner at tea time”.

Witsies at the forum said the new members of the SET needed to focus as much on the practical needs of the university as they would on strategic planning.

Pontsho Pilane, 1st year BA, said the ideal vice chancellor was someone who had been a student and a lecturer long enough to know what the “gist” of Wits was.

“We need a leader who values the fact that the academic staff and students run the university, and if it wasn’t for them, there wouldn’t be a Wits University.”

The race is on

Short-listed candidates for the DVC: Academic post delivered public presentations on Tuesday.

Prof Kuzvinetsa Dzvimbo, currently Executive Dean of the College of Education at the University of South Africa, said he was “very, very” interested in having a childcare facility for staff use on campus: a joint demand by Wits’ three unions in the current dispute.

Dzvimbo, who holds degrees from Sierra Leonean and Nigerian universities, said Wits needed to strengthen its relationships with other universities on the continent.

Prof Tahir Pillay, former Deputy Vice Chancellor at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, said Wits must also look eastwards, and not forget that all of the top 100 universities are not in Europe and North America.

Prof Andrew Crouch, Dean of Science, said Wits was nearing the end of a phase of heavy infrastructural investment (R1.5bn in the past few years), and needed to build “academic proficiency on top of that infrastructure”.

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Senior executives hand in batons

Senior executives hand in batons

The contract appointments of four members of Wits’ senior executive team will end over the next twelve months.

It has been confirmed that the vice-chancellor and deputy vice-chancellor (DVC) of finance and operations will leave Wits by May next year.

Prof Loyiso Nongxa will end his 10 year term in May 2013 while the Wits senate voted not to extend the term of office of Prof Patrick Fitzgerald.

In addition the  DVC: academic, Prof Yunus Ballim’s term ends in December 2012. He had extended his contract by two years following a five-year term, and his post will have to be re-advertised in line with Wits policy.

The Wits Council approved a two-year contract extension for DVC: advancements and partnerships, Prof Rob Moore.

Moore said Wits was one of the most exciting universities to work at.

“No other campus in this country has got this extraordinary infrastructural development going on at the moment,” he said.

Fitzgerald, whose five-year term of office ends in December 2012, had the option to reapply for the post but chose not to.

“I feel released … like a great burden of responsibility is shifting from my shoulders,” he said.

Fitzgerald said he would enjoy having his freedom of speech on leaving the post.

“If council gives a view, that is the view. You take the view or you resign … I’m going back to a life where I can say whatever I want.”

Fitzgerald said he was proud of the university’s financial turnaround, and its infrastructure projects, which are a “common legacy of the entire management team”.

Fitzgerald plans to return to academia, and said he would “probably” join the Academic Staff Association of Wits University (Asawu), whose demands could afford him a relatively relaxed time and “a good salary.”

The positions of DVC: academic and DVC: finance and operations, will be finalized over the next three months.

Published in Wits Vuvuzela 13th edition, 11th May 2012