Tea with the VC
UKZN’s Vice-Chancellor and Principal Dr Albert van Jaarsveld hosted Tea with the VC sessions on all five University campuses.
The purpose of the sessions was to allow him to engage with staff on any challenges they face at the University.
The first session was on the Pietermaritzburg campus where staff raised issues relating to decreases in the incentive scheme and the reduction in conference funding which they said left research centres struggling to survive. Other questions raised included measures in the current performance management system, the retirement age, prioritising sport, and updating the procurement database to include small upcoming companies to partner with larger established suppliers.
Disability Co-ordinator Ms Yanga Khuboni raised the issue of access to venues for staff living with a disability. Van Jaarsveld assured Khuboni that disability access was a priority for UKZN and funding to improve the situation had been raised through the UKZN Foundation. He requested staff to identify priority areas so they could be dealt with rapidly.
The VC then made his way to the Edgewood campus where issues raised included the lack of parking for staff and students, no management services office on campus, break-ins around the campus and residences, the lack of support for international students and the improvement of the policy around sexual violence on campus.
The Westville campus session was very well attended. Issues not raised during the Pietermaritzburg and Edgewood campus meetings, included the process on moving to the new conditions of service, staff development and the broadening of skills through providing opportunities for lateral growth. In his response, the VC said growing people was a key component at the University, adding that the promotions policy was being reworked to ensure it followed the best practices nationally and internationally.
Bureaucracy, ineffective or non-existent systems, media scandals, #FeesMustFall and safety on campus were some of the issues raised during the Howard College session. Van Jaarsveld addressed all the issues raised, emphasising the importance of culture and climate, which were at the “heart” of the University’s new strategic plan.
He emphasised the importance of people in ensuring that the systems in place were used effectively. ‘We have to stop blaming the systems,’ he said.
Professor Anand Singh of the Anthropology discipline welcomed the change in administration at the University under the leadership of van Jaarsveld, and supported the need to create a “social atmosphere in a congenial environment”.
‘Let’s hold each other accountable to be the kind of university that we want to be,’ said van Jaarsveld.
Promotion not in line with the rest of the University, relooking at promotion for non- UKZN paid staff, the College structure, the issue with the MBChB programme spread across the four Schools and the car scheme were among questions raised at the Nelson R. Mandela School of Medicine session.
On recent media reports about the Medical School, the VC assured staff that the University was striving hard to clean up the system.
He said the REACHt principles would be explored at sessions in early 2018.
Van Jaarsveld urged all staff to live up to REACHt values and hold each other accountable.