Arts student council elected amid discontent

 

Newly elected chairperson of the school of arts student council, Obett Motaung, explains what they should achieve in 2014

Newly elected chairperson of the school of arts student council, Obett Motaung, explains what the council hopes to achieve in  2014. Photo: Zelmarie Goosen

WITS School of Art students have expressed their discontent over the choices of degrees offered by the school.

At a meeting held at the Wits Art Museum on Tuesday, a number of the students said there was gap between the practical and theoretical components of their coursework. This was especially true for second-year students who must choose between theoretical or practical courses.

One student at the meeting said this was a problem because many students entering their second year did not know whether they wanted to pursue theoretical or practical coursework. The problem continued into third year, which the student complained had little connection to the previous year’s coursework.

Students must get more involved

The meeting for arts students was held to elect a new student council and discuss issues and concerns with their programme.

“As the student council going forward, we must really work on influencing policy-making in terms of everything – in terms of spacing, in terms of practicalities, before the university makes decisions to shut down theatres … they must find out first what is happening with the students,” said newly elected council chairperson Obett Motaung.

The students criticised what they said was a lack of visibility for events related to the arts and engagement with the Faculty of Humanities.

The arts students also loudly criticised a lack of social interaction within their school. “FUCT Fridays”, an arts initiative to raise funds for projects, used to be held on the rooftop of the school’s building. “But that’s just disappeared,” one student complained. “There are no fundraisers, nothing that’s happening and I think there we see that there is a gap that we might as well try and fill.”

2014/15 Wits School of Arts Student Council

Obett Motaung, chairperson

Lucky Mqobeli, vice- chairperson

Masechaba Phakela, secretary general

Bonnie Maphutse, deputy secretary general

Jessica Janse van Rensburg, treasurer general

Jòvan Muthray, projects and campaigns officer

Sarah Nansubuga, academic and transformation officer

Not much interest in sex harassment workshops

Wits School of Arts (WSOA) began this year by clearing its closet of nasty skeletons.

The school organized new workshops on codes of conduct after the sexual harassment drama of 2013. But the schools efforts are baring little fruit.

After last year’s revelations of improper sexual conduct by senior lecturer Tsepo wa Mamatu, which lead to a commission of inquiry and ultimately the dismissal of wa Mamatu and other offenders, WSOA embarked on the process of drafting an “ethical practices in teaching and learning” handbook.

Catherine Duncan of WSOA told Wits Vuvuzela  that the school needed to revisit a number of principles, values and responsibilities “from scratch” if the school was to be a “constructive and open environment for teaching, learning, and making art”. However, notices inviting arts students to participate in the workshops on one of three days, by signing their names up on a register provided under a description of the handbook, stood mostly empty.

They could be seen in and around the vicinity of the pale brown WSOA building- on the doors of classrooms and performance venues, as well as on notice boards and inside elevators. [pullquote align=”right”] “Doors? No one looks at doors. Why did they put them there?”[/pullquote]

Two weeks on, after the proposed dates of the workshop, those participation registers remain in position with a hardly a name on them.

Chairperson of WSOA’s school council Obett Motaung, 3rd year BADA, confirmed the poor attendance of the workshops.

“There were about 30-odd students who attended (workshops). You see we are facing an issue of student apathy,” Motaung said. Duncan admitted many had not engaged in the project.  “That is also fine and their prerogative,” Duncan said.

Both Duncan and Motaung were eager to stress that the workshops were only one part of larger information gathering process that started in July last and would continue beyond this month’s workshops.

“We gathered all the relevant policy, codes of conduct, standing orders, findings of the investigation into sexual harassment at Wits last year, course guides and so on,” Duncan said.

She said key data from the research went into the student workshops for “development, consultation and feedback”.

CONFUSED: Hankysel Lee is one of the many students who did not know about the workshop.                 Photo: Mfuneko Toyana

CONFUSED: Hankysel Lee is one of the many students who did not know about the workshop.                                                                                                                                                                                 Photo: Mfuneko Toyana

It would also seem that there was poor publicity around the workshops. The majority of the WSOA students interviewed by Wits Vuvuzela were either unaware of the workshops or just did not care to be involved in the process.

Moshini Pillay, 2nd year Fine Arts, said putting the notices on doors was not a good idea and this was the main reason she had not attended.  “Doors? No one looks at doors. Why did they put them there?” Hankysel Lee, 3rd year agreed that the visibility of the posters was ineffective.

She said she “just didn’t see the notices,”  and that she might have attended if she had.

Shubham Mehta, 4th year film and TV, said he preferred not to participate in “extracurricular activity” outside of his studies and that he saw no benefit in participating in the workshops.

A draft of the handbook will be completed by end of term according to Duncan.

 Related Articles:

 

Tri-continental film festival comes to Wits

This is the first year that Wits hosted the People to People International Documentary and Tri-continental film festival on its premises.

The People to People International Documentary Conference was held at the Wits theatre from last Sunday and ended this Wednesday.

Jeppe on a Friday Director Arya Lalloo talks to Wits Vuvuzela about the film festival

Jeppe on a Friday Director Arya Lalloo talks to Wits Vuvuzela about the film festival

People to People

In 2007, People to People  was inaugurated by the Encounters and Tri-continental film festivals, the  two leading documentary festivals in the country as they believed the number of films about Africa or the developing world  being made by filmmakers from these communities, were not enough.

Conference organiser and Director of the highly acclaimed independent film Jeppe on a Friday, Arya Lalloo said the conference was about filmmakers coming together to share the tensions involved in documentary production.

“Issues around representation, access and ethics are some of the topics that are discussed at People to People. We are dealing with very resource deprived filmmaking communities, it is about building collegial bonds between the continent’s documentary filmmakers,” Lalloo said.

The conference was created as a space to develop the voices with a broader south focus but particularly with a Pan African focus.

Advice for Witsies and aspirant documentary film makers

Lalloo commented that student apathy upsets her, “you should be using time best time in your life to define yourself to expose yourself”.

Lalloo said that there are many options available for students.

“It’s not going to suddenly come to you in a dream. It starts with understanding that there are options available to you.”