Cape Town - The University of the Western Cape’s vice-chancellor said the recent efforts by the Student Representative Council (SRC) to have him removed were not politically motivated – but he believed “something else is at work”.
At a press conference in the city on Wednesday, outgoing vice-chancellor Professor Brian O’Connell attempted to set the record straight about recent happenings at the institution and to “calm the nerves” of the university community.
The university council was recruiting his successor.
O’Connell suggested that the SRC was being manipulated.
“There is a force there that we don’t understand. Whether the force is allegiance or it is money, we don’t understand. There’s something else at work here, which we’ve got to unravel.”
At a meeting last week, the SRC called for the immediate resignations of O’Connell and deputy vice-chancellor Professor Ramesh Bharuthram. Reasons given included that O’Connell had had an increase of between R350 000 and R400 000 last year, and that an “expensive” student residence had 200 vacant beds. On Monday, a group of students who included SRC representatives disrupted a number of lectures.
The SRC was intensifying its efforts to have O’Connell and Bharuthram removed, its president, Msingathi Kula, said.
O’Connell said the SRC had two representatives on the university council and it was unfortunate that they had decided “to operate outside agreed frameworks and select aspects from past council agendas and use them, void of context, in the public domain”.
It was unjust and unconstitutional for a group of about 30 to 50 students and “a number of outsiders” to threaten and attempt to disrupt lectures “because of unclear agendas”.
Significant advances had been made that placed the university among the most productive in the country.
“Nationally and internationally there is broad recognition of UWC’s contribution to research, teaching and knowledge creation.”
There was no crisis at UWC.
Kula said the SRC would study O’Connell’s statements before making any comments.
Last week, the university said that until last year O’Connell was the lowest paid vice-chancellor in the country by choice. He was now the second lowest-paid.
It said the student residence was a public-private partnership and the university had written to the government “to obtain assistance for securing financial support”.