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Sol Plaatje students, union reject VC candidate

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Professor Andrew Crouch does not ‘fit in’ with the ‘identity’ of the institution.

THE STUDENT Representative Council (SRC) at the Sol Plaatje University (SPU) and the National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu) have rejected the potential appointment of Professor Andrew Crouch as Vice-Chancellor (VC) of the institution.

The SRC president, Thabo Moilwa, said in a statement yesterday that they were opposed to the appointment, accusing Crouch of not recognising the financial plight of many students.

“The SRC rejects the proposed candidate as he has been against students from Wits (the University of the Witwatersrand). At the beginning of the 2019 academic year, during a protest at Wits regarding financial exclusion, Professor Crouch replied to the demands of students by insisting that those who owed the university R10 000 or less would be allowed to roll-over their debt in order to register for 2019. The students had to sign an Acknowledgement of Debt form and had to make arrangements with the university to pay off the debt. Professor Crouch does not understand the struggle of students and why students fought for #FeesMustFall,” said Moilwa.

He added that Crouch did not “fit in” with the “identity” of the institution.

“Professor Crouch’s age is also problematic to the transformation that we always wanted. As students of SPU, we need a young and vibrant VC who understands the students and, more specifically, the struggle of students. Furthermore, Professor Crouch was a colleague of the outgoing VC of SPU during his time at Wits. Our question is, when will SPU be independent from Wits? The SRC remains committed to the progression and transformation of SPU.”

Moilwa said that they were still engaging with the university regarding the matter.

Nehawu added its voice to that of the SRC, stating that it also rejected the appointment of Crouch.

Nehawu’s branch chairperson, Keeme Mongale, said that the appointment of Crouch will result in SPU turning into a “carbon copy” of Wits.

“SPU is ostensibly a satellite replica of Wits University Professor Crouch is the current DVC at Wits and is now a candidate for the VC position at SPU. Two council members are former Wits employees. SPU policies are carbon copies of those of Wits. Is SPU becoming an overflow for Wits University, meaning the DVC who will be appointed in Crouch’s position can then also qualify for a position at SPU? Why can we not get someone from another university?

“We need to include different aromas into this institution – it is vital that SPU finds its own identity. We need to be diverse and make SPU better and not an extension of another university.”

Mongale added that the university needed to invest in local businesses.

“A large portion of money for construction of the SPU buildings is in the pockets of Gauteng-based consultants and building contractors. The Gauteng-based business community has turned SPU into a cash cow without investing locally,” he said.

SPU spokesperson Kashini Maistry meanwhile said that all the right channels were followed in the appointment of Crouch.

“The process for the selection of a new Vice-Chancellor and Principal is a council process. The selection panel is chaired by Judge Yvonne Mokgoro, who is also our chair of council and the panel has been properly constituted.

“The selection panel includes student and union representatives who participated fully in the process from the beginning. The panel has concluded two cycles of interviews but the process is not yet complete.

“With significant support of the selection panel, Professor Andrew Crouch has been identified as the preferred candidate for the position of the next Vice-Chancellor and Principal of Sol Plaatje University,” Maistry said.

She added that further recommendations regarding the appointment will also be considered.

“The recommendation of the selection panel will be considered by the senate and the institutional forum of the university which will each express their views to council. Council will consider the recommendation of the selection panel together with the views of the senate and the institutional forum at its next meeting. Thereafter, a formal decision on the appointment will be communicated,” she said.

Maistry rebuked statements that the institution is becoming an overflow for Wits University.

“It should be noted that the current Vice-Chancellors of the University of Fort Hare, University of Mpumalanga, University of Pretoria, Durban University of Technology, University of Cape Town, the previous Vice-Chancellor of UCT and Sol Plaatje University all worked at Wits University in various capacities as either academics or as senior managers,” said Maistry.