CAPE TOWN – University President Mary Sue Coleman emphasized the importance of universities sharing resources in a speech at the University of Cape Town yesterday.
About 70 people came to hear Coleman, who was invited by the school’s vice chancellor and principal, Njabulo S. Ndebele’s.
During the lecture, Coleman said further implementation of web tools like Sakai – which powers CTools and UCT’s equivalent, Vula – would enable greater knowledge exchange. She said the University of Michigan wants to collaborate with African universities to make its health sciences resources available online in a Sakai-style website.
She advocated for further faculty exchange between the University of Michigan and UCT.
“We share a language of ideas,” she said. “The soul of scholarship is research.”
Each year, two UCT faculty members come to the University in a direct exchange. Coleman said she hopes to increase that number to 10 each year through summer programs and annual meetings. She said the University is establishing a task force to examine what obstacles, if any, need to be overcome to start a study abroad program.
This semester, six University students are studying at UCT through the Office of International Programs.
Coleman ended her 30-minute speech by answering questions from the audience. Spectators asked about the possibility of establishing more faculty exchanges and how to address problems with early education in South Africa. Some asked about issues more pertinent to Americans, though, like the auto industry. One person inquired about affirmative action.
“I heard somewhere that (affirmative action) is her field of expertise,” said Thulani Madinginye, UCT’s student representative council president, who asked about the issue. “I just wanted to spark a thought. I think South Africa needs to solve similar problems.”
Coleman said universities need to help provide structures and maintain ongoing conversations about diversity. Some traces of racism still exist in South African colleges, like a recent incident at the University of the Free State where white students made a degrading video of black residence hall employees, causing protests and denunciations to spring up at UFS and other schools across the country.
It’s important “to talk about respecting each other as human beings,” Coleman said. “It seems like there’s a lot of dialogue.”
The visit to Cape Town was Coleman’s first, but Ndebele, UCT’s vice chancellor and principal, came to Ann Arbor four years ago for a symposium on affirmative action. He will receive an honorary doctorate from the University of Michigan later this spring.
Coleman and Ndebele signed a contract to continue student and faculty exchange between the schools. The event was the second-to-last stop on a tour to strengthen and explore ties between South African and Ghanaian schools and the University.
Coleman and her 12-member delegation has visited the University of Johannesberg, the University of Pretoria and the University of Witwatersand over the past week. The group will travel to the University of the Western Cape today.