Next week (15th December 2016), UCT convocation will vote on a motion of no confidence in their Vice Chancellor (VC), Dr Max Price. At UCT we have had a busy year of debate and student protests, with considerable disruption of academic life. The situation that UCT found itself in was not in the control of UCT senior management, or even of any of the student groups. Many incidents of disruption and intimidation occurred that were unacceptable on many levels, and everyone became an armchair VC, all knowing what should have been done to change the university and to stop the protests.
However, the reality of the situation was that none of us knew which strategy would work, as we did not have a crystal ball to look into the future. So the VC and his team negotiated with student groupings, signed a peace treaty, and got a court interdict to enable the exams to continue. We can endlessly debate the merits of this strategy, but exams were written and the protests and disruptions largely stopped. The negotiations worked – so to now have a vote of no confidence in Max Price serves no purpose, other than to second-guess him after the fact. The people proposing the vote in the Convocation should be careful what they wish for, and should be aware of what would happen if there is a vote of no confidence: Max Price is the only member of the present senior management team who will remain at UCT, next year. In the year of Trump and Brexit, be aware that once this train is rolling there may be no stopping it, and UCT may well suffer. We appeal to members of UCT convocation to give careful thought to their potential vote, and for members to participate in this process – and not censure Dr Max Price.
Professor Anna-Lise Williamson and Professor Ed Rybicki
University of Cape Town