UCT’s inclusion index survey showed that some staff members felt bullied, while others were still dealing with the trauma experienced during the “tumultuous” years of 2015 to 2017 during the #FeesMustFall protests. Picture: Tracey Adams/African News Agency (ANA) Archives
UCT’s inclusion index survey showed that some staff members felt bullied, while others were still dealing with the trauma experienced during the “tumultuous” years of 2015 to 2017 during the #FeesMustFall protests. Picture: Tracey Adams/African News Agency (ANA) Archives

UCT staff feel ‘bullied, anxious’

By Sisonke Mlamla Time of article published Sep 23, 2019

Share this article:

Cape Town - UCT’s inclusion index survey showed that some staff members felt bullied, while others were still dealing with the trauma experienced during the “tumultuous” years of 2015 to 2017 during the #FeesMustFall protests, suffering from depression and anxiety.

In May, UCT asked its staff to take part in an anonymous “inclusion index” inclusivity survey, which was developed by external service provider Aephoria and adjusted for UCT.

Deputy vice-chancellor for transformation Professor Loretta Feris said that while they strive for a UCT that was inclusive for all, and which was a welcoming and safe space, “this goal is unfortunately not always achieved”.

“This is why we wanted to hear from all staff about their experiences.”

She said the questions asked during the survey were to help identify what made relationships difficult in the UCT workplace “so that we can develop specific interventions to help improve those relationships”.

Feris said that since the conclusion of the survey, the Aephoria team

had been hard at work analysing

the quantitative data.

“Their initial findings indicate that there is a strong sense of institutional belonging, and staff generally feel that they fit in at UCT.

“UCT staff also largely have a good relationship with their individual line managers and acknowledge that leadership within the university prioritises inclusion and emphasises the importance of transformation at UCT.”

She said while that was wonderful to hear, there were some areas that needed work.

“A decrease in emotional well-being resonates with the alarming global trend, which shows that staff, worldwide are experiencing mental health concerns and therefore, as UCT, we need to provide meaningful and effective wellness programmes for staff. Transparency in recruitment, development and advancement processes was also highlighted as a concern.”

Student representative council treasurer-general Kamvelihle Tabata said that while the SRC acknowledged the university’s policy changes towards inclusion and transformation, “the university has been very slow in implementing these”.

Movement Progress SA chairperson Tami Jackson said the survey was a positive step.

“Despite its shortfalls, we have to acknowledge that student movements in the past have revealed many challenges that are faced by both students and staff at the university in terms of inclusion and the degree to which one excels based on one’s background.

“This is a much needed initiative that will hopefully open up the space for meaningful engagement on issues related to inclusivity, especially from those who might be classified as disadvantaged.”

In terms of mental health, Jackson said: “We know that the student wellness centre has been doing their best to assist where they can.

“However, speaking from experience during my time in SRC last year, there is a massive backlog that exists and students who are considered to have problems that aren’t as severe are brushed off and not accommodated.”

UCT's DA Students Organisation chairperson Luke Albert said mental health is an important issue, and  a global topic that needs to be discussed and championed in the workspace. Even though UCT is an institution of learning, it also has a responsibility for its employees," Albert said.

He said human resources should have the capacity and mechanisms in place to deal with work-related issues that affect staff. "Whilst we call on UCT to be more proactive in this regard, it is also important for them to not forgot about the students whose mental wellness is not being properly attended to".

@SISONKE_MD

[email protected]

Cape Argus

Share this article: