Wits professor investigated for talking

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.

RELATED ARTICLES:

Wits considering paying execs up to R3-mn in bonuses , April 29, 2016

Wits execs ‘earn less than average’ , May 7, 2016

Wits staff protest against management

Wits academic and support staff unions have planned a rally through Braamfontein on July 19 and a one-day strike next month over long-standing grievances with Wits management.

The three unions jointly declared a dispute after annual wage negotiations faltered last month. Management announced a 7.25% increase for academic staff (Grades 5-9). But the Administration, Library and Technical Staff Association (ALTSA) and the National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union (NEHAWU) have demanded a 9%increase.

They received a certificate of dispute from the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA), which provides legal protection for protest and strike action.

The two unions, along with the Academic Staff Association of Wits University (ASAWU), also made non-wage related demands in a memorandum to management, including a child care facility for Wits employees.

The unions began their protest action with a picket on Jorissen Street outside Senate House in June, coinciding with a scheduled meeting of the Wits Council. About 150 staff members lined the entrance of the basement parking in freezing weather, calling for support as Council officials and members of the public arrived.

 

 

Catherine Dryden, a librarian, told Vuvuzela that she has worked at Wits for over 20 years and earns less than R20,000.

“With my experience and my qualifications, I think it’s an absolute disgrace, and I think if I were a member of Council, I would hang my head in shame”, she said.

Deputy vice chancellor of finance and operations, Prof Patrick FitzGerald, said the university provides extensive information about its financial sustainability during negotiations. Last year, ASAWU’s proposed salary increase would have cost the university around R60m to implement.

“Enough is enough”.

According to the unions, this is the third year they have been in dispute with management. Advocate Liz Picarra, an executive committee member of ASAWU, said “enough is enough”.

“We care about this university, we are this university, and unless they start engaging with us, we are actually doing our students and the entire university community a disservice”, she said.

Nomasonto Baloyi, a data administrator at the Wits Arts Museum, said she has not moved to a job that could pay better because of the experience and benefits Wits offers.

ASAWU president David Dickinson asked Sakumzi Macozoma, Wits Council chair, for his views on the picket as he drove in. He responded, “I hope you’ve told them that we’re speaking to you, have you?”

Wits Council chair, Sakumzi Macozoma (left) in conversation with ASAWU president David Dickinson (right).

Wits Communications manager, Shirona Patel, said management may not respond directly to the memorandum, but will continue with talks until next week.

Related articles

Unions reject salary increase

Wits academics plan wage protest – TimesLive

Letter – Academics take stand – BusinessDay