8/31/2006

too much to blog

OOOooh I just came from the best talk. Judith Favish - Director of Institutional Planning for UCT -
On the Social Responsiveness of an Institution, of people within an institution. Not only in response to TRANSFORMATION which seems to be the elephant in the room - even when it's being directly discussed - but also more generally coming up with an institutional model which supports social action. Of course, social action is mandated both by the University's mission and by the government which funds it. However, if social action interupts the speed of publishing for a young academic, that social action is effectively punished in hiring & promotion practices. Same with contract research or services collaborating with NGOs in applied research and/or assessment. So it's been suggested to amend the holy trinity (RESEARCH, Service, teaching) to add social responsiveness. Sticky! but... progressive? Or promoting a particular political agenda? WELL, YES! This would be tabu in the US. But it's a fact of life here. We have an agenda. It's TRANSFORMATION.

What about those academics in fields where the research is not directly relevant to TRANSFORMATION? Short answer: everything in ZA is related to transformation. Long answer: They can do community service.

The Kenyan academics gave her a little bit of hell - UCT has increased fees 10% a year. What kind of social responsiveness is that? In fact, the increase in black students has been largely populated by blacks from other African nations - not poor South African blacks. The gov't mandated a certain change in racial dynamic, but also capped the size of the University and restricted the number of need-based scholarships. Well.

UCT is one of, if not THE premier university in Africa. We are not just a transformation-enabling institution - we must also maintain our status and bring ZA and larger Africa up to this academic standard. But we must also be a leader in this field. One issue is that of curriculum - not so much in geology per say, more of an issue in social science or engineering or architecture. Some examples include the selection of specialties that should be represented in hiring in the archeology department. The old guard was heavy on European Greek/Roman focus - maybe that should shift as they retire. Not all to South African, but maybe more Egyptian, Arabic, all over African. But there are those that consider the "classical" education top priority, and the best job prospects are still going to be overseas - for a long time. So if the architecture curriculum follows what's "cutting edge" globally, they are setting their graduates up to move to Europe or America. If they focus on African styles and climate and materials, they may be serving South Africa, they may be limiting the opportunities of the people who are the vehicles for this service, or marginalizing them in the global marketplace of ideas - these are the conversations that are going on. Heady Stuff!

Anyway to bring it all home - my 12 students are: 4 white, 2 Indian (maybe one of them is Pakastani? not sure), 1 Colored, 5 Black. They are from Namibia (1), Lesotho (1), Germany (1) and ZA (9). They speak, in order of prevalence: English, Afrikaans, Xhosa, Sotho, Venda... I forget the other one. They are 7 women and 5 men. They are darling and I gave them a doozy of a practical this week (Mohr circles, stereonets & stress, X-section construction). Have a good weekend kids! Heh heh.

Too much to think about. Must start again with new post.

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