UCT transformation

Photo: GCIS / Flickr

UCT swaps black, female ‘head of transformation’ – for 72-year-old white Brit

Professor Martin Hall may have a glittering CV – but UCT’s decision to bring him in for Professor Loretta Feris has sparked a huge transformation row.

UCT transformation

Photo: GCIS / Flickr

The University of Cape Town (UCT) is never far away from a race-based controversy, and history appears to be repeating itself at the hallowed campus. Professor Loretta Feris, who had served as the Deputy Vice-Chancellor for Transformation, has stepped down from her role at the institution – but the pick to replace her hasn’t kept everyone happy

Transformation professor steps down from UCT role

UCT released a statement about Feris’ decision to take an early sabbatical before her term as DVC ends. They praised the professor for her multitude of achievements, after explaining why the two parties were going their separate ways.

“Professor Loretta Feris has indicated that she will not be seeking a second term as Deputy Vice-Chancellor (DVC): Transformation when her current term ends in December. She has since requested, and has been granted, sabbatical leave from 1 April 2021 until 31 January 2022. This effectively brings her term of office as DVC to an end as of now.” | UCT

What Loretta Feris achieved at UCT

  • – She oversaw the work of the Institutional Reconciliation and Transformation Commission.
  • – Feris was frequently supporting the renaming of buildings, such as Sarah Baartman Hall.
  • – The professor introduced gender-neutral bathrooms, and brought in the gender-neutral title ‘Mx’ to UCT application forms.
  • – She established UCT’s new Sexual Misconduct Policy,  as well as the online case reporting tool.
  • – Professor Feris also reformed the Policy on Employment Equity – and fast-tracked the Student Mental Health Policy.

Who is the replacement, Professor Martin Hall?

UCT officials overseeing the transition have already praised Professor Martin Hall for ‘showing strong commitment to transformation during his previous spell at the University of Cape Town’, and his academic focus on ‘colonialism, heritage, and representations of the past’ has put the 72-year-old in pole position for the transformational post.

“Emeritus Professor Hall is a historical archaeologist whose scholarship has focused on colonialism, heritage, and representations of the past. Over the years his work has expanded into education, social and economic transformation, and digital futures.  He is well known as a courageous transformational leader and a strong intellectual.” | UCT

Transformation row brewing in the Mother City

The Black Academic Caucus at the Cape Town facility haven’t taken much notice of Professor Hall’s CV, however. They released a statement over the weekend condemning the decision to swap a black female expert with a British white male in his seventies. According to the group, Hall should never have been considered for the post:

[The appointment] endorses patriarchy and celebrates whiteness at UCT. It is irrational and unjustifiable to replace (whether on a temporary or permanent basis) a black woman DVC with a retired white man.”

Black Academic Caucus at UCT