December 10, 2008

University of KwaZulu-Natal

We, friends of the University of KwaZulu-Natal,

Affirming our commitment

* to Academic Freedom as a freedom fundamental to the existence of Universities as institutions of critical research and learning, enshrined in the Constitution of South Africa
* to the transformation of universities in the context of post-apartheid South Africa;

Noting that

* the University management instituted disciplinary action against two Professors, Nithaya Chetty and John van den Berg, both highly valued academics, as a result of their publicly initiating a debate about academic freedom at UKZN
* on 11 November a constitutionally mandated Science and Agriculture Faculty general meeting to discuss this issue was cancelled after intervention by the University management
* the University has employed a team of advocates and attorneys, and an outside lawyer as adjudicator, using public funds to prosecute these staff members
* the normal legal costs of an internal disciplinary inquiry at UKZN would bankrupt any university employee;

Believing that

* this disciplinary action was unjustifiable, divisive, and immensely damaging to the reputation of the university
* Professor van den Berg has signed an apology which does not accord with our interpretation of what he is alleged to have done
* the cancelling of the Science and Agriculture faculty general meeting is an unprecedented attack on academic freedom at the University
* this cancellation of a meeting called in accordance with the constitution of the faculty appears to be in line with other attempts to silence members of our university community who are critical of the current climate at UKZN
* the UKZN management has enacted a concerted and long standing campaign to silence any opposition lodged against the University administration or leadership;

Call upon the University Management:

* to withdraw the charges against Professors Chetty and van den Berg
* to remove outside legal representation from the prosecution and adjudication of disciplinary inquiries
* to allow academics, students and other groups to freely meet and to freely express opinions and concerns
* to uphold the internationally accepted standards of academic freedom, the constitutional rights of South Africans for freedom of expression and affirm the role of academic freedom in fostering collegiality, and critical debate, within the university
* to recognize, in accord with the 1997 Unesco declaration on the rights of higher education teachers and the recent Chetty vs Adesino decision, that Academic Freedom must include the right to criticize the management of the University and to discuss these criticisms with the wider interested public and the media


* call on our fellow academics and students, in South Africa and abroad, to support us in creating an open, active and responsive environment at UKZN.


Also read: Newspaper Coverage

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