The Wits School of Law has begun its search for a new head of school following the recent resignation of Prof Jonathan Klaaren at the end of last quarter.
After serving as the acting head of school from August 2010, Klaaren took up the permanent position in July 2011.
Klaaren’s resignation was allegedly motivated by a vote of no confidence lodged against him by six professors at the school.
A fellow professor and law lecturer confirmed she and several of her colleagues had laid a complaint against Klaaren. Speaking about the reasons behind the vote she said: “I can’t say much except to tell you that the complaint against Professor Klaaren was more concerning his management style.” She said the vote was not motivated by allegations of anything illegal.
Klaaren said he preferred not to comment on the claims as the matter is still the subject of an official university process.
In an interview with the Wits Vuvuzela, the Dean of Commerce, Law and Management, Professor Nqosa Mahao, said that a process of mediation was attempted following the vote. “The mediation process didn’t work. Professor Klaaren’s offer to resign was accepted by the dean and that’s what happened.”
According to a vacancy post issued by the university, the position of head of school is offered to the successful candidate for a period of up to five years.
Following Klaaren’s resignation, the School of Law will seek to appoint its third head of school since 2008.
Since 2008, each successive head of school has served shorter and shorter periods in the job.
Prof Glenda Fick served as head of school from 2003 to 2007. Her position was followed by Prof Angelo Pantazis, who served from 2008 to 2010. Klaaren served a little less than two years as the head of school.
Mahao said he recognises high turnover as a problem that extends beyond the School of Law, even affecting the position of the dean in the faculty. He said the university was aware of a wider issue of high turnover and was considering conducting a review to find an explanation.
In addition to Klaaren’s resignation, two other heads of school in the faculty have resigned; in the schools of Accountancy and Economic & Business Sciences.
“We need to really look into this matter and see what is happening,” Mahao said.
Speaking about the effect of the changes on the school’s development, Mahao said in any situation where constant change occurs there would be a loss of institutional memory and continuity that would ultimately affect the institution.
Professor Mtende Mhango is currently the acting head of school until a permanent candidate is appointed. Klaaren maintains his position as a full professor at the School of Law.