More views sought on Rhodes name change

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The proposed name change for Rhodes University was again put under the microscope during the alumni transformation consultation that was held at Beacon Bay Country Club in East London on Friday night.

Vice-chancellor Dr Sizwe Mabizela addressed about 30 former students, promising them that transformation was high on the university’s agenda.

Dr Sizwe Mabizela. Picture: DAVID MACGREGOR

The alumni transformation consultation comes after the Rhodes University council approved a plan to engage the greater Grahamstown community on the possibility of a name change for the academic institution.

The move was sparked by the war on colonial and post-democracy statues that saw several statues vandalised and destroyed, while Rhodes University students also called for the 113-year-old institution’s name to be changed.

“We will settle the issue of the name one way or the other,” Mabizela said.

“We have decided to have a transformation summit. What that summit does will help us take stock of where we are; that is why we have these consultations with our alumni and be able to accelerate transformation.”

The former students were given questionnaires which they will return to the institution.

Mabizela said no decision had been taken as they were still going through consultations.

“It will have to go through a proper democratic consultative and inclusive process and the decision will be made once all those consultations have taken place.

“What is important is that whatever decision we take we have a financially sustainable institution, a university worth the name, providing quality education for young people” he said.

Mabizela said the university had made a significant progress in transforming the student population.

“We cannot say the same in terms of the workforce of our university particularly at professorial level. That level is still predominantly white and male.

“We are making concerted efforts to change our staff profile particularly in the higher echelons of the academy. We need more women and particularly more black professors,” he said.

Mabizela said there was a programme funded by the Mellon Foundation that the university was part of which was giving opportunities to black academics at senior lecturer level and associate professor level an opportunity to further accelerate their scholarships so that they were ready for promotion to full professor.

“That will make a difference. It is something that we are all very much conscious of,” he said.

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