By Xanthe Galanis
Rhodes Unversity’s new Vice-Chancellor and Principal, Dr Saleem Badat, was inaugurated at the 1820 Settlers’ National Monument on Wednesday, September 27.
The ceremony was attended by, among others, the mayor of Makana municipality, Councillor Phumelelo Kate and the National Minister of Education, The Honourable Naledi Pandor.
In her speech, Pandor said that Rhodes can no longer “continue to take the cream of the crop of well-prepared matriculants and leave the broader challenge of dealing with the legacy of educational disadvange to others”. She continued by saying that it is only through nurturing and growing its own pool of black graduates that Rhodes can begin to address the equity profile of its academic staff.
As the fifth vice-chancellor in Rhodes’s history, Badat is the first VC who isn’t white and, with a PhD in Sociology from the University of York, the first social scientist. Although Badat struggled to get into his robe of office, which caused a few chuckles, he solemnly pledged “to encourage the pursuit of sound learning, research and community service… and in all things promote the welfare of the university”.
In his inaugural address that followed, Badat said that like universities everywhere, there are a number of issues that Rhodes must grapple with. He agreed with Pandor that transformation is important, but said it “involves more than simply changing demographics, numbers and proportions” and fundamentally is about a revolution of the mind.
Dr Mampela Ramphele has commented that Badat has fire in his heart and ice in his head. Badat takes this as a compliment and declared his committment to “making Rhodes one of the great African universities”.