File picture: Leon Lestrade/ANA
Cape Town - The appointment of UCT’s deputy vice-chancellor (DVC) for teaching and learning has been met with outrage, with those opposing the selection saying the successful candidate did not meet equity requirements, nor key criteria as advertised for the position.

This comes as lobbying has also begun for the university's top position of vice-chancellor.

Current vice-chancellor Max Price's second five-year term ends on June 30 this year and the selection process for his successor is under way.

Two candidates for Price's position have been shortlisted.

They are Professor Vivienne Lawack and Professor Mamokgethi Phakeng.

The Black Academic Caucus at UCT said Associate Professor Lis Lange had been appointed DVC for teaching and learning over one of UCT’s own highly-qualified and senior black academics, Professor Elelwani Ramugondo.

Ramugondo had been Price's special adviser on transformation.

The BAC said Ramugondo had been deemed “unappointable” by the selection committee, despite having been shortlisted for the position and meeting all the requirements of the post as advertised.

Lange’s CV fell short of meeting criteria for full professorship at UCT and her appointment continued despite the fact that it did not receive the required support of the UCT Senate, the BAC said.

“This is evidence that racism at UCT is alive and also operates at the highest levels of the institution,” the BAC said.

In response to the BAC, Price said the Caucus was “ill-informed and incorrect”, and called the statement an attack on the selection committee, the Council, the selection processes and Lange.

“Senate did not at any point discuss or vote upon any candidates other than the candidate put forward by the selection committee, Associate Professor Lange,” Price said.

Of the 21 members of the selection committee, nine were female and 11 were black.

“A selection committee has access to confidential referees’ reports and an in-depth interview, as well as the confidential feedback from the audiences that listened to the candidates’ presentations.

"None of this is available to Senate, the public or the BAC.

“In making its decision, the selection committee agreed that only one candidate - Lange - met sufficient criteria to be appointed.

“There is no specified requirement that the applicant should be eligible for a full professorship at UCT.”

The BAC hit back again, saying there were many inconsistencies in the recruitment process, including the re-composition of the selection committee that replaced four black members with four white members.

In a subsequent statement, Price said: “The decision to replace committee members was made by the stakeholder groups they were representing; each group appointed a representative to be on the committee.

"The new composition left the committee with about half black and half white members.”

The principle of selecting a black candidate over a white candidate, using race as the criterion, assumes that both candidates bring broadly the same benefits to the appointment, Price said.

This was not the case in this appointment.

Only one candidate was considered appointable, he added.

“The BAC’s argument also assumes that a white person cannot drive a transformation agenda.

“We reject this view and in this particular case, Associate Professor Lange has years of experience in transformation in other universities and across the sector as a whole.”

UCT convocation president Lorna Houston said she was surprised that Ramugondo was not successful.

“Professor Ramugondo is held in high regard at the university.

"There was a lot of conversation about the need to ‘grow our own timber’ because we could not find suitable senior appointments.

"People would make statements like: 'We could not find suitably qualified black (academics).'

“Now, we have someone that has been part of this ‘grow our own timber’ process. More than that, she has become an active member, contributing beyond what her work required.

“The message that we get, as the black community within UCT, is that we are still not good enough.”

Student activist Simon Rakei said Ramugondo was at the helm of keeping the institution from the brink of collapse in 2015 and 2016.

At a time when the then senior executive leadership was fumbling in responding to the pressing calls for change, Ramugondo effectively guided the institution to ensure sustainable progress to move the university forward, Rakei said.

“When the vice-chancellor took office, he set for himself (the task) to ensure equity in the demographics of senior lecturers and senior leadership.

"In his term, there have been successive appointments of white candidates for positions of HODs, deans, and most recently another white appointment of the DVC position overlooking the more qualified candidate who is one of only three black women full professors in the history of UCT,” Rakei added.

An announcement on the new vice-chancellor will be made before the end of June, UCT spokesperson Elijah Moholola said.

Cape Times