#Teamvuvu #Neknominated

#NekNomination, a social media challenge, has flooded profile pages and time lines of young people around the world. Formerly a drinking game, #NekNominations are now used to encourage people to do good.

A person or organisation challenged does an activity that helps someone else out, then passes along the challenge. It’s sort of like a electronic chain letter for charity.

The Wits Vuvuzela team (#teamvuvu), was challenged in a #NekNomination from Wapad, the student publication of the North West University. We had 24 hours to take on the challenge of making a difference and recording it.

Wits Vuvuzela reporters hit the streets of Braamfontein to hand out cupcakes to the homeless. But we also wanted to  ask the homeless what they needed because sometimes a simple gesture is not enough.


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The Newsroom 2.0: I’m back!

Happy New Year and all that jazz, I do realise that I’m like a month too late, but better late than never goes the adage. Started working as an intern at Wits Journalism last week. Going to be here for a few weeks, “mentoring” the new bunch of Journalism Honours students.

Last week was mad hectic because there were only four of us in the newsroom but somehow we managed to produce an entire paper. Here are links to all the things I did last week:

I’m the editor this week, so there will be lot’s more coming,in my round up of the week over the weekend.

ps – unlike last year I won’t be uploading all my work on this blog, but will put up my favourite pieces for that week on here 🙂

No pride at Wits

WHITE NOISE: The exhibition Substation art gallery was poorly attended. Photo: Pheladi Sethusa
WHITE NOISE: The exhibition Substation art gallery was poorly attended. Photo: Pheladi Sethusa

By Nolwazi Mjwara and Pheladi Sethusa 

Empty lecture rooms where talks were planned, no information tent and an exhibition with no pull are some of the things that contributed to the dark cloud that hung over this year’s Wits Pride celebrations.

Wits Vuvuzela headed out earlier in the week hoping to bump into people dressed in rainbow colours, ready to see all the events but all those hopes were dashed by a lack of noticeable fanfare for Wits Pride.

It’s pride?

Witsie after witsie had no idea that it was Wits Pride this week, largely due to the lack of visible advertising around campus.

“I had no idea that it’s Pride this week. I think they haven’t advertised it enough,” said Jabulani Moyo, 3rd year BSc Eng.

A daily exhibition held at the Substation art gallery was poorly attended. Few came to see the beautiful self-portraits by artist by Germaine de Larch.

PORTRAIT: Photography by Germaine de Larch was on sale, at a pricey R1 500 a portrait. Photo: Pheladi Sethusa
PORTRAIT: Photography by Germaine de Larch was on sale, at a pricey R1 500 a portrait. Photo: Pheladi Sethusa

Ella Kotze, programme officer of the Transformation Office, defended the promotion of Wits Pride on campus.

“In terms of marketing, we have put close to 1 000 posters up across all of Wits’ campuses. We have been very active on Facebook and Twitter, and we have also had a very good relationship with Voice of Wits, who has gone out of their way to promote our events and the whole concept of Wits Pride,”she said.

Kotze agreed that attendance at some events was disappointing, particularly Tuesday’s panel discussion and films.

However, Kotze said that an information stand and tours to Hillbrow and Constitutional Hill were very successful.

“Contributing factors are possibly varied and may include timing, as well as type of activity – perhaps Witsies don’t like movies as much as we thought,” Kotze said.

We need pride

“Pride is very, very, very necessary on campus,” said Wits Pride organising committee member Jeremiah Sepotokele, 3rd Law.

He believes the overriding culture on campus was still “very hetero-normative”, especially in a lot of the men’s residences like Knockando.

“As men’s res there’s a culture that’s very hetero, violent and masculine. That’s problematic,” said Sepotokele.

Many students start at Wits start out as homophobic but their perspective changes.

Sam Allan, 2nd year BSc, said that she was ignorant of gay rights before she had gay friends.

“I couldn’t stand gay people before,” she said.

It was only after spending time with gay people that did she begin to accept them for who they were.

Allan said she would have liked to have gone to Wits Pride events, had she known about them.

No answers on Coopoo

By Nokuthula Manyathi and Pheladi Sethusa

As Dean of Students Prem Coopoo spends her sixth week on special leave, the rumour mill churns out speculation and the university remains silent about the reason.

Week to week Wits Vuvuzela has been given the run around when trying to find out more about the situation.

Initially staff and students had been informed Coopoo’s absence would only last for a week.

Wits spokesperson Shirona Patel told Wits Vuvuzela last month that Coopoo was placed on special leave pending investigations but would not specify the nature of the investigation.

This week director of special projects, Oliver Seale, said Lamese Abrahams had been appointed the acting dean of students.

He went on to say: “University management is currently in negotiations with Ms P Coopoo on this matter.

We will notify the entire university community on this matter as soon as the negotiations are concluded.”

Some of the rumours Wits Vuvuzela has heard include that the university has plans to change the position of the dean of students, taking away the title of dean. Seale responded to this by saying that was not the case: “Please note that the negotiations with the current incumbent and (sic) not on the job title.”

Wits Vuvuzela contacted six members in executive management, including Vice Chancellor Adam Habib, but could not obtain further comment.

The end is nigh

Tomorrow will mark the beginning of the end. It is our last academic block, the last block I will spend in the Vuvu newsroom.

I can imagine that my sleep deprived body is celebrating at the thought, but the rest of me, is quite sad. Sad that there are only three editions of the Wits Vuvuzela left to produce, sad that I will no longer see the same 16 faces (well 18 if I include K-dawg and Mama D) and sad that I will no longer have people join in when I randomly burst into song.

The past week and a half were a taste of the emptiness that awaits me. I had my mid-year photography course with just one other classmate. It was eerily quiet in the newsroom, making it that much more obvious that our whole family was gone.

On the few days that people did come in to work, I felt whole again – suddenly the days weren’t as long and my mouth seemed to curl into smiles more often. I wish someone had warned me against getting too close to these people, it’s going to be tough without them next year.

We went on a little field trip for a lesson in photography at the Times Live Media group. The newsroom was very quiet, very orderly, very cold even. Everyone seemed to be glued to their own cubicle, trying to meet their deadlines. Got the sense that it’s an every man for himself situation. Which I am definitely not used to after this year. All my efforts, all our efforts have been to make the Wits Vuvuzela the best newspaper it can be. No single gain made has been one that we all haven’t contributed to or are proud of.

And in testimony to that every so often I think back to all that we have achieved this year and all I can think is, “Man I love my team”.

The potential team vuvu for 2014 are already in the process of being chosen, the first round of tests started last Friday. That scared me shitless. It was not so long ago that I was where they are, hoping with everything inside of me that I would get picked.

It has been a grueling and trying year, but one I would do all over again if given the chance. We’ve had our ups and downs, more ups than downs and I will cherish them forever.

So as we head into the final weeks of being student journalists, I plan to make each day memorable – not they haven’t been but just because I realise how little time I have left to do so. Onwards and upwards 🙂

BREAKING: Third “sex pest” sacked

Prof Rupert Taylor of the Political Studies department. Pic: Facebook.
Prof Rupert Taylor of the Political Studies department. Pic: Facebook.

By Nokuthula Manyathi and Pheladi Sethusa

Prof Rupert Taylor has become the third Wits lecturer to be fired following a university investigation into allegations of sexual harassment.

Political studies department head Prof Daryl Glaser confirmed to Wits Vuvuzela that Taylor, formerly a senior lecturer, has been dismissed after a four-month inquiry.

“I am relieved that the process has come to a conclusion,” said Glaser.

Glaser said he had just been told of Taylor’s dismissal on Thursday afternoon. He said would comment further when he had more information.

Taylor was forced to step down as head of the political studies department last year following a report in Wits Vuvuzela of sexual harassment allegations made against him by students.

In March of this year, Taylor was put on special leave and made to leave university premises.

Taylor had denied the allegations at the time, telling Wits Vuvuzela: “I am deeply upset and concerned about the damaging allegations that have been published against me.”

Taylor is the third lecturer to be dismissed after allegations of sexual harassment were lodged against him. Former head of the media studies department Dr Last Moyo and former senior drama lecturer Tsepo wa Mamatu were fired in August following investigations.

In a statement regarding the most recent dismissal, Vice Chancellor Prof Adam Habib said the university had adopted a “zero tolerance” policy towards sexual harassment.

“We hope that the swift action taken by the university in these three cases, sets a clear example that sexual harassment will not be tolerated in any form on our campuses,” Habib said. Wits Vuvuzela has so far been unable to contact Taylor for comment on his dismissal.

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Wits sexual harassment inquiry complete

Prof Bonita Meyersfield outlines some of the key findings from the report. Photo: Pheladi Sethusa
Prof Bonita Meyersfield outlines some of the key findings from the report. Photo: Pheladi Sethusa

By Caro Malherbe and Shandukani Mulaudzi

Wits has pledged to undertake a multidimensional approach to issues of sexual harassment on campus by formulating a special task team initiated by the vice chancellor’s office. These measures and others were announced today at a press conference called to make the findings of an independent inquiry into issues of sexual harassment at Wits University.

Vice chancellor Prof Adam Habib said he takes full responsibility for the abuses that happened at Wits and that the report highlights the failure of the university’s system to address rumours and allegations decisively.

Habib added that the university welcomes the recommendations and will form a Senior Executive Team to start a plan of action on how the issue of sexual harassment will be dealt with, in line with the culture of the institution.

Special Task Team 

The special task team will originate from the VC’s office and comprise various experts from within the university including gender specialists, the transformation office, sexual harassment advisors, legal expertise and student representatives.

Habib said student representatives will not be solely from the SRC but from various sectors of the student body.

Prof Adam Habib, Kirti Menon and Prof Andrew Crouch field questions from the media. Photo: Pheladi Sethusa
Prof Adam Habib, Kirti Menon and Prof Andrew Crouch field questions from the media. Photo: Pheladi Sethusa

 Difficulties of investigation


Prof Bonita Meyersfeld, the director of the Centre of Applied Legal Studies at Wits was part of the team who compiled the report together with lawyers from law firm Norton Rose. She said this was one of the most difficult inquiries to undertake.

“The inquiry was one of the most difficult tasks for the whole team to undertake because we were dealing with our own university. But it was important and totally worth it.”

Meyersfeld said students and members of staff were initially reluctant to speak to them but in the last two months of the inquiry they were more willing to come forward.

“The emotion involved in both students and staff alike is evident throughout the university and administration. Students felt they were not listened to and not taken seriously.”

Meyersfeld said the students were also worried about following the legal process as they were worried about being re-traumatised by speaking to various entities about the same incident.

Members of staff, although they shared the same sentiments also worried about the threat posed to their careers if they came forward.

Continuing investigation 

Two cases have already been dealt with and the accused persons have been dismissed. Habib said there are two other cases that are on-going.

“Two have been dismissed and another who began investigations will hopefully be released to me tomorrow. The fourth is yet to begin.”

SRC President, Sibulele Mgudlwa answers a question from the audience. Photo: Pheladi Sethusa
SRC President, Sibulele Mgudlwa answers a question from the audience. Photo: Pheladi Sethusa

The on-going investigation is that of Prof Rupert Taylor, while the one that has not yet begun is that of Dr Lord Mawuko. This was confirmed by a reliable source who did not want to be named.

Meyersfeld said while there were other perpetrators discovered during the inquiry. However cases were dealt with on a confidential basis and unless students asked for their accusations to be pursued, they were not.

Habib added: “We pursued various other avenues to get to the bottom of it [new cases]. But in those instances our findings yielded no further investigation.”

Habib thanked the media for blowing the whistle on issues of sexual harassment as this forced the university to take immediate action.

 

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VIDEO VOX: What are Witsies voting for?

SRC elections officially began yesterday. A steady stream of students entered the tents set up on Main campus throughout the day. It was a different story at Education campus. Wits Vuvuzela went out in search of potential voters to find out what they were looking for from the new leadership they would help to elect.

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On the eve of elections

The elections for 2014’s Wits Student Representative Council (SRC), are but hours away. With over 50 people and organisations running for elections, students need to think carefully about whose picture they will put their ‘X’ next to.

The road to the polls

People clad in dark blue, yellow and light blue t-shirts have been knocking on doors and debating furiously the past few weeks as the election dates draw ever nearer.

The campaign trail has been upped a notch this year with the arrival newcomer ProjectW. They have collected over 3000 canned food items, handed out study guides earlier in the year and delivered couches to residences. Leaving egg on the faces of those who handed out t-shirts and lollipops.

ProjectW provides?

ProjectW member, Jamie Mighti said that they were simply fulfilling students needs with the couches. “We deliver on the ground and will continue to do so beyond these elections”.

Pearl Pillay, member of opposition group PYA said that what ProjectW had done with the couches was very opportunistic and that they were simply trying to buy students’ votes. “Let them bring couches, we will bring leadership,” she added.

Mighti responded to these claims by saying that the PYA were then hypocrites because they handed out 5000 t-shirts to students, “what they didn’t consider is the fact that our couches will be around for years to provide comfort to students, while their t-shirts will be used to sleep in”. Mighti added that their opponents were merely trying to undermine them, even though they have failed to fulfil student needs for the past three years.

Whether or not these incentives are the way to student’s hearts will become evident after the polls have closed.

Promises, promises

Many a promise has been made by those running for office. The Progressive Youth Alliance (PYA) has a history behind them to support their claims. Their campaign focused on past victories like the reduction of proposed registration fees last year for students in need.

This year the Democratic Alliance’s (Daso) youth wing was not the PYA’s biggest competitor. ProjectW made a lot of noise during the circuses on campus about what they can and will do if given the opportunity to lead the SRC next year. They have been embroiled in a lot of back and forth banter with the PYA on what the latter have failed to do while in office.

Amongst some of ProjectW’s promises they listed longer library hours, more textbooks and online lectures as vital goals on their agenda.

Daso put forward their 18 point manifesto which promised a bail-out fund for students who may lack funding for school related necessities during their year of study.

Independents

Totally lost in all the campaigning are the independent candidates. There are eight independents in total, none of whom have managed to make much of an impression in the hearts and minds of the electorate at large.

Pabalelo Selema, an independent candidate said that he was excited ahead of elections and that he felt prepared. “I did one on one sessions with students to campaign”. He added that the bigger organisations were at an advantage because they had bigger budgets with which to campaign. “I only got R5oo to campaign, I could barely afford to put up posters,” he said.

As students head to the polls tomorrow, one can only hope that they vote for the people and persons who will help to make Wits better and not be blinded by the momentary blue colouring in their mouths from the blue gobstoppers they were given.

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