The University of Johannesburg (UJ) has noted with concern the statement attributed to Dr Theuns Eloff, former Vice-Chancellor of North-West University (NWU) in a published interview by Chris Barron in his ‘So Many Questions’ column on page 7 of the Sunday Times, 23 March 2014.
In the interview, Dr Eloff is quoted saying: “On the website of Bastion residence at the University of Johannesburg, you will see ‘Nazi’ salutes performed by black students.” This statement is incorrect, and its insinuations are rejected with contempt. We note that the interview of Dr Eloff by Mr Barron was focused on transformation at NWU and the recently reported video posting showing NWU Potchefstroom Campus first year students allegedly greeting their seniors with a Nazi-style salute. In trying to deflect attention away from NWU, Dr Eloff is not dealing with the serious cultural challenges faced by NWU.
UJ rejects the unfounded allegation made by Dr Eloff in the strongest terms. Nazism, racism and sexism have no place at the student residences of UJ, and, as evidenced by our hard work, UJ has invested considerable time and effort in its ongoing transformation project with the necessary resolve and determination.
Right from the onset of our merger in January 2005, UJ was established as a unitary and not a federal institution, with four dedicated, equivalent, diverse, inclusive and world-class campuses.
UJ has been particularly deliberate and resolute in the establishment of a diverse and inclusive student experience and culture that is aligned to the Constitution of our democratic South Africa. This is clearly reflected in our Student Charter constructed with student input and signed by students annually, and we reject insinuations that cast aspersions on these efforts and results. Furthermore, we have created an institutional policy platform within which a transformed student experience and culture is nurtured and is evolving for all to see. Our naming policy is a further excellent example of the manner in which we are transforming our staff and student experience, and how we are perceived externally.
Significantly, we have taken the lead in the creation and adoption of relevant national policies. The UJ Vice-Chancellor and Principal chaired the Ministerial Committee that produced the ‘Review of the provision of Student Housing at South African Universities’. Over the years, UJ has employed specific culture change interventions in student residences, and the services of such respected South African thinkers and change management advisers as Prof Pitika Ntuli, Mike Muendane, François Dorman and an expert from Italy, Davide Zaccariello have contributed magnificently in this regard.
The fruits of our decade-long interventions are beginning to show, for example, the latest biennial UJ institutional culture survey, started in 2008, a barometer of our internal culture and its alignment with our vision and values statement, has progressively improved from 52% (2008) to 57% (2010) and 69% (2012). While our work is ongoing and widely recognised, we are proud of our achievements.