20th Mar2017

So on the Issue of Accommodation Huh?

by admin

Wits EFF Protest

It is almost the end of block one and many students are still faced with the problem of not having accommodation. Many endure sleeping in libraries and toilets or travel long distances to get to lectures. The scarcity of accommodation both on and off campus has been a persistent struggle mostly due to university residences being unable to provide spaces for every single applicant and the ludicrous amount of money required to secure a place and meals as well.

I used to live at one of the South Point buildings and I swore I would never go back again due to reasons including high prices, bad customer service, various safety and security issues, maintenance, etc. Despite all of that I found myself back in the same building because on campus accommodation had limited capacity and slightly higher prices compared to off campus accommodation. One has gotten used to this yearly struggle, and the university has not done much to help with this issue. The national student financial aid scheme (NSFAS) also seems to distance itself whilst most of its recipients rely on off and on campus accommodation. Seemingly though, NSFAS continues to accredit certain buildings that charge high prices which they are failing to cover. This results in a huge shortfall that students must top up on from their own pockets. The student representative council (SRC) has made efforts to help alleviate some of the stress caused by this crisis but their efforts have been a drop in the ocean. Last year, we saw some activism and physical action directed at South Point accommodation and their ridiculously high fees with the hashtag #SouthPointFeesSoRidiculous. Moreover, a march to their office for a memorandum handover by the Wits EFF Student Command managed to draw attention to how private accommodation providers charge unfair and unregulated prices; in addition to how these providers have been exploiting poor students who have no alternatives and are forced to pay exorbitant amounts for accommodation of a lesser quality.

Southpoint Fees So Ridiculous

I write this article as I want to alert and inform most students who may be in a sticky situation when it comes to accommodation to not fall prey to people who may want to exploit their desperation. If they are still on the waiting list to get on university residences, they must continue to be proactive and probe the university and the SRC to come up with more effective solutions to the nationwide accommodation crisis.

29th Oct2012

Invitation book launch Mehita Iqani, 10 November 2012

by admin

You are invited to join the Department of Media Studies and the Critical Research in Consumer Culture (CRiCC) Network for drinks to mark the launch of a new book, Consumer Culture and the Media by Mehita Iqani (Palgrave Macmillan, 2012).

When: Saturday 10 November 2012 16h45-18h00

Where: Graduate Seminar Room, South-West Engineering Building, East Campus, Wits University

Kindly supported by the Wits School of Literature, Language and Media (SLLM).

Please RSVP to katlegodisemelo@gmail.com by 6 November 2012

The book launch marks the end of the first CRiC symposuim to be held on Friday 9 and Saturday 10 November. A full programme is available here. All are also welcome to attend the symposium but please note lunch and dinner are reserved for registered participants only.

18th Sep2012

The work of thought giants

by admin

So Golden Key (GK) is having its Annual Thinkers Symposium on the 27th of September this year. This year promises to be as insightful and thought-poking as ever, but then what else could you expect from a Thinkers Symposium, especially one hosted by a society of academics and great thought leaders. Duh.

For those of you who do not know much if anything at all about Golden Key, I would like to encourage you to be an ambitious liker of things, like me. Golden Key is an international academic honours society that is open to members by invitation only. Unlike every other society in our blessed capitalist university, you cannot buy… ehm I mean subscribe… your way in. Invites are circulated only to individuals who comprise of the top 15% in their respective faculties.

But do not cry out in distress from being excluded from such a prestigious offer if you are not a battery student like the rest of us who study even on Saturday nights because our lives are pretty much non-existent. As exclusive as GK is, the society believes that we all have the right to think and have our lives changed by great ideas, therefore it opens events as awesome as the forthcoming symposium to the general student population and all are able to attend.

Its awesomeness is what distinguishes GK Thinkers from other symposiums held on Wits soil. It is actually interesting and designed to incorporate all thinkers from student level to that snobbish professor with so many degrees that he has the letters A – Z after his or her name. GK Thinkers also has a tradition that builds on itself. Last year’s theme was ‘Thoughts Become Things’ and included speaker presentations and rapid fire talks followed by question and answer sessions. Speakers included great names like Trevor Manuel, Khaya Dlanga, and Simphiwe Dana, just to name a few, and topics ranged from Leadership, Youth Culture and Identity, Education, Science and Technology to Climate Change, Empowerment, Ubuntu, and the Media.

This year’s theme is ‘On the Shoulders of Giants’. The theme is in recognition of the fact that as ‘amaze-balls’ as we may think we are, we are where we are as a human society and as thinkers because of those who came before us and paved the way. We only observe the heights we do only because we are sitting on their shoulders and building on what they began. This year’s symposium speakers will therefore be sharing how they modelled their greatness from men and women from the past. Moreover GK Thinkers 2012 seeks to incept a spirit-dialogue between equally great thought giants across the interval of time.  This year also incorporates the fact that Wits is now a 90 year old white man. Speakers will include the likes of lan Knott-Craig Jnr, Zamandlovu Ndlovu and Kelly Gillespie. If you don’t know who these people are, you officially have homework, my friend.

So you have a date with prolific thought leaders and giants: 27 September 2012, Great Hall, 15h30-20h30. Get your nerd swag on. Attend and be inspired to think about ways to change this country and see how those who did so in the past are inspiring our leaders today. In the words of the pop star thinker known as Drake: ‘You Only Live Once’. But unlike the way he means it, you should really make it count. Who knows you might just have an experience that will inspire you to be an even greater thinker than you already are. Or not.

Sine Zungu is a third year student in Media Studies at the University of the Witwatersrand

17th Sep2012

To be a revolutionist or not to be – that is the question!

by admin

In a recent attempt at launching a coup d’état, the Wits Student Representative Council (SRC) elections were held. Admittedly, the prerequisites of a coup are not inclusive of democratic elements such as elections. The objective, however, is the same: to overthrow (or in this case correct) the already existing governing body. The plight of the arbitrary Wits student is emphasized by three student bodies, namely Democratic Alliance Students Organisation (DASO), the Progressive Youth Alliance (PYA) and the independents.

These organisations and individuals offer limited choices to the affectionately known “Witsie”. The options are either to become a revolutionist, a counter-revolutionists or a rogue individualist. As history and experience would have it, there is a culture of continuity where the aligned emerge as victorious in penetrating their ideologies, thus gaining and maintaining support from their loyalists. This is further perpetuated by the fifteen seats that the PYA occupies in the SRC.

The year 2012, however, was characterized by the SRC elections and its awkward teenage years. From a member of the PYA being expelled from the elections on the basis of bad conduct to DASO using Papa Smurf as their campaign mascot, thus inducing feelings of nostalgia from long lost childhoods, it is evident that the SRC is having an identity crisis within its own boundaries. The sweets of bribery offered a day prior to the elections by a DASO candidate further reduce the Wits student to an apparatus of bribery, undermining the characteristic nature of the Wits student to engage critically in student politics. However, the Wits student does not make claims of being holier-than-thou as their participation in the SRC elections has been less than satisfactory with a disappointing student participation of 16%. The indifference speaks volumes.

Class and race dictate the nature of student politics. However, candidates tip-toe around these issues, carefully not to wake the grandfather in slumber. The side-eyes that black students offer as judgment to other black students who wear the DASO t-shirt reiterate the prominence of old grandfather racism rearing its ugly head. Furthermore, DASO’s emphases on issues such as parking – rather than issues that concern and encompass the entire student body – see grandfather classism lurking around the corners of people’s wallets. The failure in addressing these issues will pose as a recurring challenge to the disparities between the organizations, leaving little space for the independents to play a prominent role in student politics. Thus the question remains: will you be part of the revolution?

Palesa Vuyolwethu Tshandu is a second year student in Media Studies at the University of the Witwatersrand.

12th Sep2012

Invitation to upcoming guest lectures by media professionals

by admin

Are you interested in getting a behind-the-scenes glimpse into what happens in South Africa’s newsrooms? The Department of Media Studies at the University of the Witwatersrand warmly invites you to a series of guest lectures by a range of media professionals. The lectures are part of the second year course SLLS2004 Sociology of News Production but all students are welcome to attend. All lectures will take place in CB38, Central Block, Wits East Campus. Full details are available below:

Tuesday, September 18 at 2.15pm: Glenda Daniels (Mail and Guardian and Right 2 Know campaign)

Thursday, October 11 at 8.30am: Khadija Patel (Daily Maverick)

Tuesday, October 16 at 2.15pm: Adriaan Basson (City Press)

Thursday, October 18 at 8.30am: Peter Sullivan (The Star)

We look forward to seeing you there! For any further details, please contact Janeske Botes (janeske.botes@wits.ac.za).

11th Sep2012

The character of campaigns

by admin

Voting for the 2013 Student Representative Council (SRC) candidates kicked off on the 22nd of August and this brought about a hive of activity both in the East and West campuses of Wits University. Banners were put up, candidate posters and other campaign materials littered the varsity grounds and notice boards; and students couldn’t stop chattering about the event.

In all the hive of SRC voting activity, I found the styles of campaigning of the various parties and candidates very interesting as these speak to established traditions, the character of the individual or the organisation, and more importantly how candidates interact with their audiences and potential backers at the polls. Another critical piece of information that can be extracted from the character of the campaigns is the potential power of the organisation or individual and its ability to make itself or oneself visible to potential voters.

In my assessment of the Democratic Alliance Students Organisation’s (DASO) campaigns, I found that in the main DASO engages students on official platforms like radio, debating platforms and through setting up tables during lunch from where pamphlets and face-to-face engagement with voters is unleashed.

DASO candidates walk around campus enthusiastically (sometimes in a sort of subdued manner), engaging and talking to students about issues of concern and handing out voter candidate guides and pamphlets of their manifesto and plans. DASO has a strong link with its mother body, the Democratic Alliance (DA) in Johannesburg, and they draw a massive amount of support from this structure in terms of campaign materials and strategies used. In contrast to the national DA’s adoption of singing and toyi-toying in recent years, DASO still remains (at least on Wits campus) an organisation without song in its campaigns. Its main source of ‘vava-voom’ is arguably its candidates who are genuinely interested in effecting change in Wits politics and securing a reasonable chunk of political territory.

Independent campaigners, on the other hand, move around and engage with voters mostly by themselves and they also use official platforms to advance their goals and visions. Their ability to access and pull of resources to help their campaigns is extremely limited, both in terms of money and people. Independent candidates rely heavily on their posters on notice boards, their personalities and their history in leadership positions which may have put them in the limelight to influence people. It is no surprise to see that independent candidates have no songs to mobilise voters and that their visibility and face-to-face engagement is very limited. In my interview with one independent candidate, Welcome Lishivha, he said that “resources are the biggest challenge”.

Progressive Youth Alliance (PYA) campaigns are rooted in tradition and song that evoke the deep memories of the struggle against apartheid, with its members generally working in numbers and making sure they are visible in the green, yellow and red t-shirts.

It is the only organisation that has core partners in the form of the Muslims Student Association, the Young Communist League, the South African Students Organisation, the ANC Youth League and extended strategic partners which include the Black Lawyers Association and the Black Management Forum among others. Their face-to-face engagement strategy is engaging but ruthless in that it seldom allows a different point of view, especially when the voter is alone surrounded by enthusiastic comrades! The nature of campaigns and strategies applied can shed some interesting light about how victory is achieved in the SRC elections. The information extracted from such a study may also shed some light on past victories and PYA dominance of the SRC elections.

Nkululeko Sibiya is a second year student in Media Studies at the University of the Witwatersrand.

 

 

10th Sep2012

My opinion, from my experience

by admin

The annual fee saga at Wits University resembles a soap opera in which the antagonists re-enact the same plot, using the same strategies with a few minor changes here and there, without ever reaching any conclusive point! It would appear that either management has an incredibly layered, thick skull that can’t be cracked by the SRC and students (and the disgruntled unionised lectures) or both the SRC and Wits management enjoy acting out the ‘fees’ saga every year.

As far as I can remember, even from before I registered at Wits in 1999 to the days of one Malcolm X who threatened to jump of (one of the buildings) and kill himself because of tuition fees, the issue has remained largely the same with its discourse changing little – if at all. Management seems to marvel at the opportunity to send chills down the spines of learners and misery to others when it announces fee increments on a yearly basis without any constructive engagement or information sessions that involve the majority of the learners! It would seem there is a deep-rooted culture of authoritarianism and dictatorship embedded in Wits institutions whereby responding or engaging with students or disenfranchised workers takes the form of ‘no comment’, ‘point blank refusal to even engage’, and ‘long winded PR statements when crisis hits’. This is evidenced by the continued silence and refusal to engage the parking and campus traffic departments who have not been talking since my days as a journalist at VOW FM in 2010!

While management has its faults, our own representatives have in my opinion also failed dismally in keeping abreast with developments in relation to fees throughout the years, each year. They appear to be a reactionary bunch that engages with the matter only once an announcement has been made by the big bosses in the Wits boardroom. I read with little enthusiasm the news about how the SRC had managed to mobilise students to participate in the protest at Senate House on Friday 27 July. The reason I was not so impressed is that the first of such meeting was arranged to occur at the Umthombo building (I think on the Wednesday of the same week during lunch). However, when I got there I found a group of students who were disgruntled that no one from the SRC had bothered to show up to start the proceedings or even come to apologise for the cancellation. Speaking to one sympathetic student, she defended the SRC and pointed out that they were attending the lecturers’ march. I would have taken this as a reasonable excuse had I not been part of the lecturers’ march, had all SRC members been put on the list of speakers and were involved in addressing the marchers. How did I manage to march, listen to the first two speeches, partake in the toyi-toying and still get to the meeting venue on time?

Students, including myself, must be rightfully blamed for not taking the issue of fees very seriously and leaving it all to the SRC to negotiate as if it affects them only! A huge chunk of us carry on as if we are voiceless, as if we are not leaders and bury our heads in our books as if next year will not come, as if the reality of paying more will just be a distant dream that never comes true… It is this very behaviour that sends the message that we are okay with the proposed changes to Wits management. Until students stop isolating themselves in their cars, blocking their ears with earphones pumping the latest ‘Wizzy’, fees are going to continue to rise at rates that will see many marginalised or even go hungry the day they start to work because of expensive loans taken to cover exorbitant registration fees…

Since it has been SRC election week at Wits, I went around and spoke to various SRC candidates who disputed my claims and strongly argued that it is through their struggles that registration fees were lowered to about R5,000 for 2013. Please check out exPress imPress tomorrow for a more detailed article on the SRC elections and videos with candidates’ positions on student fees via my YouTube channel PSTN News.

Nkululeko Sibiya is a second year student in Media Studies at the University of the Witwatersrand.

 

30th Jul2012

Reaching wider horizons…the IAMCR conference in Durban

by admin

The IAMCR conference unraveled an exciting world of media and communication research. One could not have a better glance at this than in a conference of a global scale, hosted in our very own grounds in Durban, KZN. The conference was a complete learning curve for an emerging scholar like me, attending an event like this for the very first time. The conference had a balanced vibe between the social and formal programmes. Together with other postgrad students from across the globe, I definitely enjoyed sharing my nightmares, my joys and jubilation about my current MA research. It really was great seeing that I am not on a lonely path as far as my research is concerned. In a sense, I came to a conclusion that the MA syndrome is a global phenomenon which has its ups and downs.

I have learned a lot from the conference, ranging from building up good research coupled with a good presentation. The conference has been an eye opener in many ways, apart from the presentation of papers, I also learned that an enormous amount of work is involved in preparing for a conference of a global scale and the logistics involved. After attending a number of sessions in the Emerging Scholar Network, I definitely must say that I am really proud of my student colleagues who presented their papers. They were pitched at a high global standard and the papers received great reviews and comments from the respondent and audience members. A huge Big Up to Kgali, Aneesa and Sylvia for flying the flag. As for me, I am sure I certainly made a good chair. 🙂

Attending the conference would have been impossible without help from the Faculty of Humanities, the School of Literature and Language Studies and the Department of Media Studies. I definitely would like to express my gratitude to Dr Willems, for seeing to it that our attendance became a success regardless of the challenges posed by funding. Special thanks to Ms Delia Rossouw, the School Admin Manager for her relentless hard work and effort, making sure that our documents and funds were processed. Lastly, a special thanks needs to be made to Professor Judith Inggs – words cannot describe the enormous care and support that she’s given to us. The same goes to Professor Eric Worby and the Wits University Financial Aid office for their assistance with traveling grants.

2013, it’s Dublin, Ireland. Looking forward to it. It will be another great week of critical scholarly engagement and great scholarly interactions.

Themba Mnguni is a MA student in Media Studies at the University of the Witwatersrand.

 

 

23rd Jul2012

Wits staff strike back

by admin

Thursday 19 July 2012 marked the beginning of the Wits staff industrial action against management. The main issue of protest is against the low wages that staff members at Wits are paid.

The strike came to my attention on Twitter via Professor Pumla Gqola’s timeline. Her hashtag #WitsStaffIndustrialAction was very useful in highlighting the staff’s main issues of contention. Members of ASAWU (Academic Staff Association of Wits University), NEHAWU (National Education Health and Allied Workers Union) and ALTSA (Administration Library and Technical Staff Association) joined forces to propel the protest.

This was what they called a yellow card march, pending a response from management. If their demands are not met, the strikers threaten to enforce full industrial action on the 2nd of August. The groups feel that considering the surplus profits that Wits makes they are entitled to increases. They are demanding a 9% wage increase for support staff and a 7.5% wage increase for academic staff. Along with this was a demand for an on-campus childcare facility, increased amounts for individual research and an end to the overselling of open staff parking areas.

These demands are by no means preposterous or absurd; the staff members simply want decent pay for the work they do. Especially when there is enough money in the University’s coffers to do so. Every year students pay increased fees and the government grant is increased. It only makes sense that staff salaries should also increase. At the moment increases are granted on a performance basis but this can judged very subjectively and is not necessarily the fairest way. The memorandum handed over was accepted by management and will be taken into consideration, they say.

Hopefully, management will heed staffs call by adhering to their demands. Our staff is very capable and deserving of this increase for the phenomenal work they do.

Pheladi Sethusa is a third year student in Media Studies at the University of the Witwatersrand.

31st May2012

When last did you really LOL? How blackberries reduce real life interaction

by admin

Leenesha Pather shares the presentation she delivered at the recent exPress imPress roundtable debate organised during the WALE festival at Wits University.

BlackBerries could be seen as presenting a major force in our lives today, whether involved in segregating physical social interactions or causing our brains to momentarily lose complete focus when that little red light flashes in the corner of the screen. As I was thinking about this topic, my thoughts and opinions got divided in two very different perspectives on the segregating effect a BlackBerry smartphone has, namely: are they segregating us on an interactionist and face-to-face level but are they at the same time perhaps slowly bridging the class divide in South Africa? To begin thinking about these two perspectives, I could ask how many of us reading this article recognise and relate to the sound of a BlackBerry phone receiving a message?

Usually when a BlackBerry smartphone goes off with this tone, almost a whole room of people tend to begin checking their BlackBerries to see whether it is their phone. Even though my phone is usually on vibrate or silent, I still check my phone because it is a BlackBerry creating sound by association, I must say a BlackBerry is definitely unique in creating a stir in a room where people precipitate to check their IM messages. To put this more in perspective, it is becoming a case where we rather tweet about watching a person fall, rather than going to help that person up.

So that being said, how is the smartphone era segregating South Africans? Here, rather than focusing too much on the class divide, I would like to elaborate on the diminishing amount of interaction one has when one has a smartphone. How often is it that we see people in a restaurant or in this very room checking their phone constantly or letting their thumbs run wild on a keypad to reply to IM messages instead of talking to the person or people right in front of them?  This I think is one major way that smartphones are currently segregating South Africans. We focus on class and race divides substantially but maybe if the whole country had a BlackBerry nobody would talk face to face so there would be no need to pick on these peripheral markers but obviously class and racial segregation goes deeper than that.

When I look at the amount of people that have a BlackBerry, 15% of the population, it is clear to see a small bridge forming amongst the middle and upper class who tend to own a smartphone. When I first saw a BlackBerry years ago, it was only known as a business phone. Who knew years later that 15% of the population would be business people! Of course, I’m joking here but this shows that throughout the years that smartphones have been progressing, a gap between classes was bridged through the use of a phone. Now it is not seen as an upper class business phone anymore but a phone for all – a phone that even a 13- year old operates and demands.

There are many jokes circulating about how a BlackBerry is no longer a smartphone because of the massive amounts of people that use it. One of them being: when is a smartphone no longer a smartphone? When it’s a BlackBerry!  I know that MY first phone was an Alcatel and then a Nokia 3310, and all I ever did was play snake. But if we look at our youth now, that is since the dawn of Mxit up until now (with BlackBerry Messenger as the latest popular instant messaging tool), they interact more on a phone and social media than that they develop real, face-to-face interactions. Interaction on a phone is more important than interacting in public and face-to-face. This is I think one of the major but least focused on ways in which smartphones segregate South Africans. With the integration of Twitter and Facebook as well as instant messaging sites on smartphones, it will become harder to cut this constant phone fixation that smartphone users have. For now this could be the only problem but once television becomes integrated onto a phone, well, you will see the top of people’s heads more often than their full face!

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