Dear Mr Fallist,
You and your partner have been visiting my home for the past months.
I value our friendship and shared history at Community House, but more often than not, you have returned my kindness by engaging in a ‘bully pulpit’, declaiming upon matters which leave no room for disagreement, nor intellectual freedom from my side nor that of my friends and associates.
Yours is a bully pulpit with its associated guilt trip which boils down to the modern version of Mathew 20:30 — “Anyone who isn’t with me opposes me, and anyone who isn’t working with me is actually working against me.”
As a non-theist I don’t quote this biblical reference out of respect for scripture but rather to demonstrate that you appear to have a lot in common with the people that you claim to oppose.
To the day in question, in which you arrived, over a week ago only to tell me that UCT, still required ‘Decolonization’.
An institution from which I have a degree, and which treated persons such as myself, objectors and war-resisters, rather cruelly (to use your words), implementing a form of academic exclusion which amounted to invisibility alongside similar strictures meted out by the apartheid regime.
Nevetherless I finally received my marks in December 2020, some thirty years after I failed to attend my graduation in 1990 only to discover I had received a reasonable second, and had done quite well under the circumstances during a tumultuous period of student unrest.
You proceeded to inform me that there was something terribly wrong with the maths syllabus, ‘since there are other ways to draw a circle that don’t involve European maths’ as you put it. For the life of me, I could not recall any rudimentary method which did not have its origins in the Olduvai Gorge, the Caves of Lascaux and gardens of Mesopotamia.
You then motioned to explain that students at UCT were ‘still being taught Christianity and how many Angels’ (not angles) ‘could fit on a pinhead’, whereupon I exclaimed, that I ‘did not believe that every student at my alma mater was in the process of studying Thomas Aquinas, a native of Sicily, born in Italy.
You then advanced to relate the story of a particular female ‘professor’, a friend who you did not name, nor give any further details.
You explained that she had been active in ‘Rhodes Must Fall’, was appointed to an advisory board to former Chancellor Max Price, and had been overlooked for a job at UCT on account of her politics, whereupon she had taken the institution to the High Court, only to be told after nine months that it was a simple labour court matter.
I explained that since UCT is an institution created by an Act of Parliament (the UCT Act), I could imagine what she was up against and advised that issues to do with the curriculum and policy would be better taken up in Senate and that I am merely a member of Convocation.
I also hastened to guess at what the unfair discrimination case at Labour Court might entail, since as you know, I have had my fair share of labour discrimination litigation including a longstanding dispute, that also involves corruption at the Court by a member and/or associate of the ANC and former professor of law at UCT.
To your chagrin, I began to unpack some elements of the case. Asking who the person was that had beaten the aggrieved educator in question?
You answered that she was an Argentinian, ‘who was not even a professor at UCT’, and offered up the biography of one Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Teaching and Learning — Associate Professor Lis Lange, formerly of University of the Free State (UFS), whose specialty is ‘philosophy of politics in education’
I then made an honest mistake of applying the self-same cursory test applied in my own case against the Legal Aid Board, averring that the courts would assume the case was one merely of sour grapes, your close friend, was simply a sore loser in the eyes of the law if the policy issues were set aside, and it was not simply a question of who was most qualified, but rather of the powers and mandate of the institution to appoint whomever it felt most capable.
I further cautioned that Max Price was no longer the Vice Chancellor, but rather, this post was held by a highly qualified professor of mathematics education, a black woman by the name of Mamokgethi Phakeng
Whereupon you flew into a rage and was asked to leave.
If there is any lesson to be drawn from this experience, I guess, it is far easier to overlook naked aggression, than it is the inferences which may be drawn, that what you are really engaged in isn’t decolonization per se, but rather the desecularisation of society, its replacement by a politburo that shuns academic freedom at the same time as it discards pluralism and the multi-ethnic character of an institution, which has transformed immensely since the days I was on campus.
I therefore once again reiterate the view that policy issues regarding the UCT curriculum are best resolved by open debate, vigorous intellectual inquiry, evidence-based research and consultation between both academics and the student body.
D R Lewis