I read "Storm over varsity 'commissariat'" (January 25) with interest and concern. The Mail & Guardian rightly raises the question of whether the creation of a new ministerial committee to exercise oversight over transformation in the South African higher education sector is needed at all.
Presuming that the new committee will soon begin its work, it must be evident that Professor Malekgapuru Makgoba is not an appropriate chairperson. First, the narrowness of his interpretation of "transformation" and the damage this vision has already done to the intellectual climate at the University of KwaZulu-Natal should give one pause. Transformation must surely include the nurturing of a climate of robust engagement on crucial questions of student curricula, learning experiences and research agendas, in which all progressive staff and students can participate, not a closing down of critical debate.
Second, there is Makgoba's notorious sensitivity to criticism. The university was the only one that was not subjected to public scrutiny in the last round of institutional audits conducted by the Council for Higher Education. The report is widely believed to have been suppressed because Makgoba did not like its content critical of him. Calls made two years ago for the release of the report were ignored. I trust history will not repeat itself in the shape of the new committee and that its members will adopt a democratic and participatory approach. – Shirley Brooks, Cape Town