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Vice-Chancellor Message – 9 October 2020

Dear UJ Community

The time difference between South Africa and the USA has meant that I have had to wake up in the early hours of the morning to watch the Presidential Debates. The debates have not been short of comic drama, mainly because of the incumbent, President Donald Trump’s political theatrics. As I watched the Vice Presidential debate yesterday, edging closer to the USA’s election day, I remembered that time is also ticking towards the end of our own elections here at home, at our University. Our students have one last chance to vote for their preferred Student Representative Council (SRC) leaders today, with the online voting system closing at 17:00.

As explained earlier, the importance of our students participating in this process cannot be over-emphasised, especially in a country like ours that has often had a poor record in ethical leadership and governance, and is beset with the scourge of corruption. Our student leaders provide an important opportunity to challenge these very notions. Research shows that democracy on campus is one of the important entry points for youth experience on issues of responsible and ethical leadership in civil society. Vibrant universities engaging in innovative reform contribute to producing a new generation of leaders and helps in building socialised, enlightened, and constructively critical citizens. I again urge our students to make their voice heard by voting for their preferred representatives. Voting is done via a secure online voting system, which eliminates incidents of vote rigging and manipulation.

Talking of leadership, please join me in congratulating Ms Boniswa Madikizela for being selected as one of the 28 top performing women leaders to form part of the International Women’s Forum (IWF) 2020-2021 Fellows Class. Ms Madikizela is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Accountancy at UJ. Annually, IWF invests in making women stronger, smarter, and more influential through the Fellows Programme, a one-year intensive leadership development experience. This group of Fellows comprises entrepreneurs, academics, government officials, non-profit organisation leaders and corporate executives, each selected based on their demonstrated leadership capacity. Ms Madikizela, you have done us proud and I wish you all the best in this programme!

You might recall from my recent message the news on Prof Heidi Abrahamse’s successful renewal of her DST/NRF South African Research Chair in Laser Applications in Health. In another exciting development, the National Research Foundation (NRF) has upgraded Prof Abrahamse’s SARCHi Research Chair to a Tier 1. This is a further affirmation that she is a highly recognised leader in her field, locally and globally. Prof Abrahamse, well done! Of course, we are also grateful to the contribution that Prof Abrahamse and Ms Madikizela are making as members of UJ Council.

Another achievement worth mentioning: Mr Garth Bouwers, lecturer in the Faculty of Law, has recently complied with all the requirements to be awarded the joint doctoral programme between UJ and the University of Lucerne (summa cum laude). Mr Bouwers is the first graduate in this joint programme. The supervisors were Prof Daniel Girsberger (University of Lucerne), Prof Jan L Neels (UJ) and Prof Eesa A Fredericks (UJ).

The UJ community’s achievements also go beyond our staff. Our third-year student, Thabo Masuku from the Department of Accountancy, has been announced as one of the top ten best university students in South Africa in the 2020 ABSA GradStar Programme. These are top students who possess great leadership qualities and show readiness for the workplace. Annually, ABSAGradStar receives over 8000 entries which are narrowed down to the top 100, and then to the 10 of the finest. As a result of their acknowledgment through this programme, many of the Top 100 recognised students have received job offers from major employers. The Top 100 students relate to a successful business mentor, recognised through the Rising Star Programme, and groomed to become professionals. Thabo, congratulations!

I also extend compliments to one of our law alumni, Judge Albert Hoffmann, for his election as the president of the 168-member International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) last Friday. ITLOS is an independent judicial body established under Part XV of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (commonly referred to as the ‘Constitution for Oceans’). Its role is to settle disputes between its Member States concerning the interpretation and application of the Convention. Judge Hoffmann has been a member of the Tribunal for 15 years. He adds significant experience, having served in the maritime legal space since 1985. Together with the Vice-President, Judge Tomas Heidar of Iceland, they will serve in their posts until 2023.

Another exciting development at UJ is the upcoming virtual Projects Day for our Informatics students who will be demonstrating their final year projects on 21 October 2020. For more than three decades, Projects Day served as an opportunity for students to develop projects using the principles and latest tools of software engineering, working with industry project sponsors. This year, Projects Day will also include a selection of Honours, Master’s and PhD research students’ projects. While presentations are scheduled to take place on the 21st, student projects will be showcased from next week Wednesday, 14th and the Academy Awards will be presented on the 28th of October 2020. To view the projects and presentations, please click here. This is an initiative of the Academy of Computer Science and Software Engineering at UJ.

In my message last week, I drew your attention to the solar energy project at the B-Parking lot of Auckland Park Kingsway (APK) Campus. I thought that it would be important to update on the solar solution improvements across our campuses. The first two systems of the project have been completed and switched on at the Doornfontein and the Bunting Road campuses. At the Soweto Campus and APK, the projects are now in their last installation stages and are expected to be fully functional in late November 2020. This is an exciting and a much-needed energy relief to our grid.

Lastly, as communicated earlier this week, all staff members who have been working remotely due to the COVID-19 National Lockdowns should return to their workstations on campuses and other University sites to support other facets of the academic programme on Monday, 12 October 2020. Please note that exceptions will be considered through line-management, and arrangements may include return on a limited rotational basis, in consultation with the relevant ELG member and line managers. As explained, we are preparing for the 2021 student intake and we would prefer to return to a normal position as soon as we can, so that the only additional task for us will be the integration of students in face-to-face lecture situations.

Once again, please remember that the return to workstations on campuses has implications on the allocation of data for staff. It now means that the University will no longer support data cost for staff members, working from home. Additionally, staff members who were loaned laptops to enable working remotely should return them as staff will now be able to access their devices from their offices/workstations on campus. Please note that even if staff are back to their workstations on campus, meetings are to continue online. We are doing this out of caution, because of the possibility of a COVID-19 second wave.

All staff must complete the daily pre-screening online form prior to arrival to campus to ensure that the access to campus process is as seamless as possible. To familiarise yourself with the procedures and protocols for screening, access to campuses and the directions to the campus control points., click here (to be added)

 

We appeal to all to adhere to the recommended precautionary measures,  hygiene and social distancing at all times. 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 the UJ COVID-19 Updates at https://www.uj.ac.za/news/corona-virus//.

With my very best wishes,

 

Professor Tshilidzi Marwala

Vice-Chancellor and Principal,

University of Johannesburg

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