Wits lecturers are on the brink of spilling out of their ivory towers – and onto the lawns.
They are threatening protest action if the university does not allocate money for library books for 2014.
Lecturers have been up in arms since last week after they received an email informing them that there was no budget allocation in 2014 for books.
“All librarians were informed that there was no budget allocation this year for books. Whether this situation will change in months to follow, I cannot say for certain,” said the email.
Outraged, lecturers wasted no time responding, and in a highly emotive manner, emails were flying fast and furious: “I am not sad – I am mad! This is totally outrageous! I do hope that this is the result of an oversight,” said a lecturer in response to the email. The lecturer urged his colleagues to not take this “lying down”: “The school needs to protest.” Some exercised caution by saying they should write letters to the VC, while others said this may be a “mistake”.
Another lecturer responded to the email by saying “What??? This is absurd. How can we be speaking of the ‘top one hundred’, and have no library budget! Crazy.”
Wits staff are not shy to strike. In 2012, Academic Staff Association of Wits University members took to protesting at the university gates, chanting for more pay, alleging that they earned less than their peers at other institutions in the country. About 150 lecturers and staff members protested over their pay. They demanded a 9% increase, and the establishment of child care facilities. Some of the workers who joined the academics on strike said they earned as little as R20 000 a year.[pullquote]”We currently have a shortfall on the information resources budget for books in 2014.”[/pullquote]
We don’t have the money
Deputy Vice Chancellor for Knowledge and Information Management, Infrastructure and Operations Beatrys Lacquet, said the situation was a result of the weak and depreciating rand, increases by publishers and VAT payments.
“This component of the budget is specifically sensitive to increases by the publishing houses and the value of the currency as a very large percentage of our holding is sourced outside of South Africa,” said Lacquet.
Lacquet said the university had paid for the 2014 electronic media, including databases and e-books, in December 2013: “We currently have a shortfall on the information resources budget for books in 2014.”
Lacquet said the matter was receiving attention and had been put on the agenda of the next senior executive team meeting: “We know that information resources are core to a university, and we are looking at mechanisms to address the challenges.” The product manager at Van Schaik, Ermien Louw, said that the weak rand had had a significant impact on prices, “it has resulted in a 25% increase on United States dollar priced books, and in the case of GBP [Great Britain pound] priced books an increase of 30%.”
- Wits Vuvuzela: Wits staff protest against management, June 1, 2013.
- Wits Vuvuzela: Red carpet of protests rolled out, May 12, 2012.