Vice-Chancellor Staff and Professional staff meeting

Held at Staff Lounge, Bohlaleng Block, Education Campus, Parktown on 7 October 2015

 

Transformation

Let me say on the transformation thing, you do know that we’ve put a new plan afoot. We’ve discussed it before. It has eight components. One is diversifying the Wits academy. There’s curriculum reform, student admission, promoting diverse and cosmopolitan student residences, institutional culture, institutional naming, language and insourcing.

We’ve been working on particularly the first part quite dramatically. We’ve got R45 million funding available. We’ve advertised. We’ve got about a hundred applications. This morning we gave the go-ahead for 12, and there’ll still be another round that we’ll probably make. We’ve also allocated and identified people for enabling grants. There’s been a lot of movement in this regard.

Every month we will start to give out a transformation update, which comes out from Prof Tawana Kupe’s office, which tells you how things are progressing.

On curriculum reform, we’ve sent a notification to everybody, that in the next six months, we will have a meeting on curriculum in every school in the university and then we will report on that.
Student admissions, overall we are okay, but there are programmes like biomedical engineering, which is completely white or mining engineering which are completely black, where we will probably look still at admission issues, but overall things look okay there.

The residents life, we are waiting for a report on the task team, they will give us a report by the end of this month.

Institutional culture, there is a whole plan coming out, which will affect all of you, the head of the transformation office is putting a plan together in this regard and a campaign will start.

Institutional naming, a new policy document has been adopted and we are now starting to look at what namings need to be undertaken.

Language, there’s a new plan around language, which Andrew Couch is managing, and has already undertaken.

Insourcing, we had a march about this yesterday, and frankly, the issue is very simple. There is no doubt that there are challenges around people’s vulnerabilities. There are challenges to bring all of the people together. It requires effectively R200 million a year. To insource everybody will cost us R200 million and we don’t have the resources.

We will reply to the memorandum today with that message.

I have raised it with the President yesterday, and other members of the Cabinet, around our commitment to insourcing and that it is going to require systemic resources, and it is something that will be at the Transformation Summit next week.

But this is on the agenda, and things are proceeding in this regard.

That takes me to the Transformation Summit next week. For three days there will be a Transformation Summit in Durban. We will have a full delegation from our side that will be engaging this, and all of these issues will be on the agenda.

I should also say, that after our meeting yesterday (Wednesday), the President established a task team of seven people to immediately report by the end of November short-term financing needs for students in the New Year, and what are the options?

It’s got the DG of the Presidency, The DG of the Department of Higher Education and Training, Dr. Mvuyo Tom, who is the VC of Fort Hare University, myself, two student representatives, and Sizwe Nxasana, who used to be the CEO of FNB but is now the Chair of the National Student Fincancial Aid Scheme (NSFAS).

So that is underway.

 

Performance management

Some sub-units have already started performance management. There is a meeting with the delegation from the Professional and Admin staff on Friday, 9 October.

Research performance is doing well. A task team on the R90 million donation has concluded that R45 million will go to the transformation project, and the other R45 million has been shared between two projects – one on commercialisation potentials, and the second on a project on urban development, largely through the faculty of commerce, law and management.

 

The student financial aid scheme

I told you that this plan with the banks and banking CEOs in partnering with us in financing students is something we are talking about, and we will be taking it to this task team that the President has established. I am told that the one million one month campaign by the SRC now generated about R4.5 million.

And finally, there have been some demonstrations by students around the Parktown residences. I have made it fairly clear that we may very well need those residences for the expansion of the teaching facilities of the business school, but we are comfortable in the fact that we will NOT move anybody until we have sourced alternative beds and until we have done a full consultation. So we will not move until that happens and no movement in the course of a year.

That’s communicated to the students.

 

Questions and Answers

Q: I want to know whether there is a university policy where medical aid is concerned? A policy that prevents one from joining a medical aid of your choice. I have looked for that policy but couldn’t find it.

A: Yes, there is, actually. There is a document on the intranet. It is called conditions of employment. It just needs to be updated, but in there is a reference to the medical aid. If you are a permanent member of staff, you are obligated to belong to both the provident and medical aid schemes, unless you are on someone else’s medical aid scheme, then you can be exempted from joining the medical aid scheme.

 

Q: Is it not possible to send out to all staff the conditions of service, because people forget. An issue that came about, was that people had requested study leave. Support staff, and they had taken 10 days for each semester, and when we looked on the conditions of service, it says 10 days per year.

A: Who have been signing off on it? Firstly, it can’t be, because somebody must have signed off on it. And if somebody had signed off on it that is a disciplinary. They are out of line. That is a manager who doesn’t know their own policies. And it wouldn’t approve on the system. The system would block it. So I tell you they can’t be taking it. It would probably register as normal leave then, because it will be blocked.

If you exceed the leave, it will take from your vacation leave, and that is how it has been set up. If you apply for additional leave, the system first searches for the number of days that you have, take from there and then consider any approved leave.

 

Q: It appears that everybody has different hours at Wits. Registered hours as I know is eight until about 4.30. But people are coming in at nine, leaving at three and working in their lunch hours?

A: Again there are managers who have managed to bend it. If somebody is doing this outside their line, they can be held accountable. This is not allowed, unless there is a practical reason. There are cases where we allow it, but then it must be negotiated and there must be a rational reason. So if somebody’s doing it, they will be held accountable for it, and their heads will be held accountable. If they are doing it, they are doing it in violation of policy and they are out of line.

 

Q: I just want to know if the job application system is working? There are jobs that I have applied for three years ago and the status is still showing “active”.

A: The system is working, but I would like you to give me the details so that we can investigate.

 

Q: Are people’s jobs allowed to be changed, despite them getting job descriptions?

A: All of these things depend on the context. There are cases where we have changed jobs, but it was according to regulations on how you can do that, and under what terms. So there are ways to do that. Also, remember, people’s reading of job descriptions might be very narrow. For instance, your work conditions say you have to undertake your responsibilities as per your original employment contract, and you would need to be cleaning the staff room, and then we remove you from the staff room to the lecture room. You can’t say “my job description has changed”. That is not a job description. It is a change of flexibility. It is giving us the flexibility to change it.

On the other hand, if you are a mathematics teacher and we suddenly change you to teaching physics, well, there may be some serious questions to ask, and you may not have the expertize etc.

There are definitely job descriptions that do change. Mine clearly changed in the two-and-a-half years that I’ve been here. I find out things that I have never thought possible two-and-a-half years ago. That means I have to do things that I have never imagined.
That doesn’t mean necessarily my job description changed. It means the kind of tasks that I undertake is very different. But, again, if there are cases you must engage us and give us concrete cases.