Thursday, September 25, 2008
THE CAMPUS IS ALIVE WITH THE SOUND OF ELECTION
Like I said I went to a university where we loved to learn and went to a lecture as part of our orientation week activities. So you know all the trouble I’ve had with auditing (languages, music, drama, etc.) as the university charges per course above tuition and considers me a knowledge-thief even when it doesn’t count towards my degree. Well, I’ve been sitting in on a philosophy course called Ethics. It’s been exciting, thrilling, and good for me since my supervisor asked me to stop tutoring the math course. Well in lecture two weeks ago two girls made an announcement at the beginning of lecture.
Vote for me!
I remember similar announcements about other topics, but it reminded me of college. And these announcements were about election time. The two girls giving 1 min speeches to 1st, 2nd, and 3rd year students were running as independents. That’s right. There are parties through which students run for student council/government. It’s exactly like having students run as Democrats and Republicans on campus. Students can even vote a straight-ticket (straight-Democrat or straight-Republican). It’s so strange. So I highly support independents as I am not sure about university elections mimicking national ones.
The other interesting point is that communism is seen much friendlier here. There is a communist party that is known and respected (meaning you can have a speaker from that party interviewed on TV programs about his/her opinion). And you remember the sociology conference I attended? They loved Marx. One girl (South African masters student and lecturer) said that when she went to the US she felt overwhelmed by capitalists that it drenched her soul. She lost her soul.
Alongside the elections buzz (the results came out this week, and neither independent was in the top 5) was the inauguration. The new Vice Chancellor (president) of the university was inaugurated on Monday by the Chancellor (like a king or queen for a university) Graca Machel (Mandela’s wife). Chancellor’s don’t seem to have offices on campus but perhaps they do. The average student has no idea where the administrative offices are, so I have not been able to ask about their location. Moreover UCT has no good, large venue. So graduations must be held over a period of 5 consecutive days to all fit.
On Sunday, there was a closed symposium where people (students) reflected on importance of a famed 1968 sit-in by student protesting the UCT reversal of an appointment of Professor Mafeje due to pressure from the apartheid government.
On Monday, there was an open program at the law department/building which the late Professor Mafeje’s family attended. The symposium was entitled Lessons of the Mafeje Affair - 40 years on featuring speakers Fred Hendricks, Dean of Humanities at Rhodes University; Professor Ken Hughes of UCT's Department of Mathematics and Applied Mathematics; Professor Lungisile Ntsebeza of UCT's Department of Sociology; and Emeritus Professor of Economics, Francis Wilson. The senate room in the law school was renamed the Mafeje Room and a plaque was unveiled.
On Tuesday, he was inaugurated in a closed ceremony.
On Wednesday, he went around and had hour-long open forums with staff and faculty all around the university. This concluded with an open symposium with speakers Akilagpa Sawyer, former Vice-Chancellor and Professor of Law, University of Ghana, and former secretary-general of the Association of African Universities; Dr Mamphela Ramphele, former Vice-Chancellor of UCT and executive chairperson of Circle Capital Ventures; and Jonathan Jansen, Honorary Professor of Education at the University of Witwatersrand. The symposium was title “he Future Role of South African Universities: Campus … city … country … continents”
On Thursday we had an anti-stigma rally. The new VC officially made this rally part of the inauguration events. 50 UCT drama students were frozen on the steps to signify . . .hmmm. . . –well, to signify freezing our notions, I think. There was a band playing and some refreshments. The event was hosted by an actress who plays an HIV+ AIDS activist. So it was cool to see her in real life doing the same.