Next Wits vice-chancellor views the future

Braamfontein – Professor Zeblon Vilakazi, who will be Wits University’s 15th Vice-Chancellor after Professor Adam Habib at the end of the year, believes the university has transformed, but more work needs to be done.

  Professor Vilakazi is looking to challenge inequality and exclusion, he said.

He said the institution had taken steps towards increasing diversity and transformation, but still faces challenges which need to be worked on. 

  “The issue of inequality and exclusion will be a big problem, and I need to attend to it. There are also challenges on staff, in particular the academic faculty. I am talking about getting more female professors where women are not well represented, like my area,” he said. 

  Vilakazi added that he would also look at working towards ensuring the culture of the institution is reflective of the broader society, and as inclusive as possible.

  “Wits University has a particular history, tradition and set of values; some of which are very good; while some need to be adjusted to the new era, which cannot be an overnight process. Conversations will take place over a long period, to ensure that everyone feels welcome, as long they meet the requirement and are aligned to the mission and vision of the university,” he said.

  Professor Vilakazi, who is currently Vice-Principal and Deputy Vice-Chancellor for Research and Postgraduate Studies, said when his appointment was announced he started thinking about what the future holds.

  “You get nervous because to undertake any job you need that element of nervousness. If you don’t become nervous, then you don’t take the job seriously. You need that sense of urgency that makes you perform at your best,” he said.

  Reflecting on protests that include the Fees Must Fall and Rhodes Must Fall movements, Professor Vilakazi said lessons had been learned about reasons behind such movements.  

  “What is important is engagement with all parties involved in the institution; students, student leaders and staff, to address such issues. In the next decade, new challenges will come, but I cannot predict what may happen,” he said.

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