Cape Town - Saleem Badat removed himself from the running for University of the Western Cape (UWC) vice-chancellor because the process was “convoluted and unnecessarily lengthy” and “lacking in integrity”.
The Rhodes University vice-chancellor added that UWC should resolve its “governance problems”.
This emerged on Thursday at a meeting on campus convened by the student representative council.
It was announced earlier this week that Badat had resigned from Rhodes University and had taken up a position at the Andrew W Mellon Foundation in New York.
He had been in the running, along with three other candidates, to become the vice-chancellor at UWC.
“The institutional process of recruiting and appointing a new rector and vice-chancellor has been a convoluted and unnecessarily lengthy one. Concomitantly, it has become increasingly clear that it is also one that for various reasons is lacking in integrity,” said Badat’s letter of withdrawal which was read at the meeting.
“As a consequence, formal criteria such as leadership ability, scholarly standing, knowledge, proven expertise and experience seem to have become secondary considerations, and self-serving interests and a certain kind of chauvinism appear to be rampant.”
The letter said the post of vice-chancellor was “immensely demanding and challenging” and the candidate should “possess the ability to lead, and enjoy the respect of academics”. The new vice-chancellor should also “have the support of an effective and unified council”.
“I humbly submit that UWC will be best served if the governance problems that currently characterise it are resolved, the entire process of recruiting and appointing a new rector and vice-chancellor to lead UWC is begun afresh and scholars and the senate are accorded a central role.”
Badat confirmed on Thursday that he had written the letter.
At Thursday’s meeting, the SRC called for rector and vice-chancellor Brian O’Connell, who announced he would resign last year, and deputy vice-chancellor Ramesh Bharuthram to resign with immediate effect.
SRC president Msingathi Kula and secretary-general Bantu Mazingi called on students and staff to support their demand for an investigation into irregularities at UWC. They planned to write to Public Protector Thuli Madonsela.
Activist Keith Gottschalk said the convocation, of which he is vice-president, supported the SRC’s “campaign for justice and internal democracy”.
In March last year, a group of lecturers and alumni clashed with management over a new events policy, which they slammed as a “direct attack” on freedom of expression and academic freedom.
In September, former council chairman Brian Williams went to court to challenge his removal following ongoing clashes with O’Connell.
The matter is still before the Western Cape High Court.
UWC spokesman Luthando Tyhalibongo described the SRC members’ allegations against the university as “untrue and inaccurate”.
“It is unfortunate to have matters that belong in council splattered in the public domain by council members,” he said, adding that two SRC members served on the council.
“The university has always been transparent, and continues to be transparent, and involves the SRC in all of its processes.”