Dear UJ Community,
Earlier this week, while browsing the internet, I stumbled across a news article that caught my eye. I thought it was important to share it with you, considering the latest concerns around the resurgence in COVID-19 infections and the carefree attitude that I have seen among some within our midst at the University.
In brief, the article is about an employee who was dismissed for reporting for work after one of his colleagues, with whom he was in close contact, contracted COVID-19. The employee continued to go to his workplace after he experienced symptoms himself and even after he tested positive for the virus. After he was dismissed, he lodged a complaint with the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA). The CCMA found his dismissal to be substantively unfair.
The employer then took the CCMA arbitration outcome on review at the Labour Court, which overturned the CCMA ruling. It ruled that the dismissal was fair. In its review application, the employer had argued that the employee in question was negligent and irresponsible because he was an assistant manager and was also a member of the inhouse ‘Coronavirus Site Committee’. He was also responsible for putting up posters through the workplace and informing other employees about what to do in the event of exposure to the virus. The employer also stated that further investigation, including video footage, showed the man hugging a fellow employee and walking around the workplace without a mask.
As you can imagine, there are obvious lessons to be learnt from this court case, especially as we transition into winter and heed the warnings of the country being engulfed by a third COVID-19 wave. As a University, we have repeatedly reminded you that we have a legal obligation to ensure compliance with national health and safety regulations. Should any of our employees or students continue to be in non-compliance according to the required and legislative requirements, the University will take corrective action. As staff and students, we cannot afford to be irresponsible and negligent in our behaviour. I also encourage those who are over 60 years to register for the COVID-19 vaccine.
Still on matters of COVID-19, the University management has decided that UJ will for the remainder of 2021 Academic Year continue with a blended learning approach. This means that all classes will be taught online for the remainder of 2021, unless you are specifically instructed to be on campus for academic activities, e.g. teaching, tests/exams, practicals or laboratory work. Students will be informed by their respective faculties/college if there is a need for them to be on campus for classes or assessments. We are mindful of the stress that comes with learning and assessments, especially in the midst of a pandemic. If you are feeling overwhelmed, contact our many support services, including PsyCAD. Click here for more information on this, including a list of helpful resources for support.
As you would recall, I recently detailed how well the University performed in the Times Higher Education (THE) Impact rankings. In particular, I mentioned that UJ is now ranked in the first position in the world for Decent Work and Economic Growth. UJ also featured among the global Top 100 in the various United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SGDs). Since then, we have pushed to further the conversation on the integration between the SDG and our research and innovation initiatives. Here is an overview presentation co-hosted by Elsevier and the UJ Library.
As communicated recently, our UJ sport mascot, Hoepie, is competing with other world university mascots in the International University Sport Federation’s (FISU) Monday Mascot competition. The good news is that he is now in the semi-finals of the competition against a Mexican university mascot named Kuako. Hoepie needs our votes to proceed to the final of the competition. Please vote for our mascot here: Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. Voting closes this coming Sunday, 23 May 2021. Please also ask your family and friends to vote by commenting “Hoepie” and clicking on his name in the survey.
I remind you to please join me in the latest VC Reading Group today for a discussion on my latest recommended book, The Open Society and its Enemies by Karl Popper, at the usual time of 14:00. This is a landmark defence of democracy that has been hailed as one of the most important books of the twentieth century by the Princeton University Press. Click here and join in the conversation.
Next week on Friday, 28 May 2021, from 14:30, the Chair of UJ Council, Mr Mike Teke, will also host another of his virtual Reading Group. His book of choice this time around is Character Building by Booker T Washington. Click here and join in the conversation. For the e-book link, click here.
Please continue to visit our COVID-19 portal on the UJ website for valuable information, including health and wellbeing. Only information issued via the University’s official communication platforms is legitimate. This information may be verified by visiting: https://www.uj.ac.za/news/corona-virus//. We appeal to all to adhere to the recommended precautionary measures, hygiene and physical distancing (https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019/advice-for-public) at all times.
Ndo livhuwa, enkosi, baie dankie!
Professor Tshilidzi Marwala
Vice-Chancellor and Principal
University of Johannesburg
Times mentioned in this newsletter refer to the South African time-zone.