New Faculty appointment to assist with Transformation agenda

28 Dec 2015 - 10:00

In line with Faculty’s commitment to accelerating transformation, a Transformation Researcher has recently been appointed in the Dean’s office to assist the Deanery. 

Students and staff at the historic Special Faculty Assembly on Transformation in April 2015

Accountable to the Transformation Reference Group (TRG), chaired by Deputy Dean Denver Hendricks, Dr Sharon Groenmeyer will document and research issues of Transformation in the Faculty. The TRG draws together the Dean’s Transformation Advisory Committee, the Transformation Equity Committee and Transformation Advisory Committee which indicates the wide cross section of transformational activities that have been carried out in the Faculty. At the first (TRG) meeting on 10 November 2015, it was decided that an audit of the transformation activities be undertaken.

Some sixteen years have passed since the Faculty of Health Science (FHS), University of Cape Town, established a Transformation Portfolio as part of the governance structure and this was not the first time transformation of the Faculty was discussed. Early discussions on transformation began in the late 1980s when the Equal Opportunities Committee, chaired by Dr Errol Holland was set up with a view to looking into transformation.

Since 1998, the Faculty of Health Sciences has worked toward transforming the institutional culture, which created opportunities for many transformational changes in the various departments of the FHS. Professor Leslie London headed this Committee as the Portfolio Manager. One of the tasks identified by the Portfolio was the appointment of a Transformation Officer. Dr Gonda Perez was appointed as the first Transformation Officer for the Faculty in June 2000. Her task was to put in place a programme for transformation based on the broad transformation agenda adopted by the faculty. 

In the spirit of the testimonies to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Special Hearings on the Health Sector in June 1997, the Faculty Reconciliation Process acknowledged that discrimination against former staff and students had occurred.  Furthermore, a new curriculum was introduced in 2002 marking a shift from purely biological medicine to a bio-psycho-social approach to illness emphasising human rights and primary health care. The priority was to institutionalise transformation by setting up systems for monitoring and evaluation towards employment equity. 

The recent nationwide student protest action (#Rhodesmustfall and #Feesmustfall) illustrates their anger and frustration at the slow pace of transformation. Within the Faculty, students and staff have articulated painful experiences of institutionalised racism. Academics have supported the call for accelerating transformation, citing lack of career support and the low numbers of senior Black academics. All the members of the TRG, all of whom have been engaging in transforming the spaces they work in, were interviewed.   The findings of Dr Groenmeyer’s first Report on Transformation in the Faculty will be discussed at a workshop of the TRG in January.