Ululation and singing is how this year’s Wits Journalism Honours class greeted the news of a vice-chancellor’s award earlier today. The Wits Journalism class of 2013 and their mentors have been awarded the 2013 Vice-Chancellor’s Award for Transformation (Team) Award in the student category.
The team of 17 students (referred to as #teamvuvu) have been awarded a R 20 000 prize as part of the award which will be used to advance the transformation agenda through its various publications.
“I think it’s a great achievement. This award shows the kind of impact that journalism can have on society;” said Sibusisiwe Nyanda, a member of this year’s class.
The student journalists were instrumental in exposing sexual misconduct by university lecturers by telling the stories of victims who felt that there were no other mechanisms to deal with their harassment. The coverage of Wits Vuvuzela resulted in a four month campus-wide inquiry into sexual harassment and the dismissal of three senior academics. Dr Last Moyo, Professor Rupert Taylor and Tsepo wa Mamatu were dismissed following an independent university investigation.
In his motivation for the award, Professor Anton Harber, head of Wits Journalism wrote “Vuvuzela has become central to the framing of a campus community, providing links across a disparate and dispersed campus, offering more and constant communication in a way Wits has seldom seen before. This has given a sense that we are all involved and part of the debate and discussion of the (sexual harassment) issue.” He added: “Few things have had as much impact on
the story than the daily updates of the Vuvuzela website and the weekly distribution of the paper across campus.”
The team will receive their award on Friday at a gala dinner hosted by VC Professor Adam Habib. “This is an amazing honour. 2013 has been really good for Wits Vuvuzela,” said Liesl Frankson an Journalism Honours student.
This is just one of two awards that the Wits Journalism department, home to the Wits Vuvuzela, will receive this Friday evening. The Wits Justice Project, also part of Wits Journalism, will receive the Vice Chancellor’s Award for Academic Citizenship (Team). The Justice Project aims to investigate the plight of incarcerated prisoners. The team will be awarded R 40 000 for their efforts to promote prisoners rights and uphold justice.
“It [the award] speaks to the enabling environment that allows such good work to flourish,” said Nooshin Erfani-Ghadimi, project coordinator for The Wits Justice Project.