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07 May 2019 | Story Valentino Ndaba | Photo Charl Devenish
Noko Masalesa
Noko Masalesa, Director of Protection Services, in conversation with students and stakeholders to plan a safe way forward.

Safety and security are human rights that constitute social justice. At the centre of the agenda at the University of the Free State’s (UFS) Social Justice Week held on the Bloemfontein Campus from 17-22 April 2019 were discussions about off-campus safety. Stakeholders agreed on an upgrade to security measures in order to ensure the success and wellbeing of the student population.

A call to students

Prof John Mubangizi, Dean of the Faculty of Law, in his capacity as representative of the UFS Rector and Vice-Chancellor, Prof Francis Petersen, expressed his view on institutions of higher learning no longer functioning as ivory towers. “For any initiative to succeed, collaboration is necessary between key roleplayers,” he said.

He aptly pointed out that: “We cannot underscore the importance of safety and security, not only for the university but also for the communities around us. What the university does benefits the community and vice versa. I pledge the university’s commitment to play a leading part to ensure that the collaboration works,” said Prof Mubangizi.

Beefing up security: Who is involved?

In view of the collaborative effort Prof Mubangizi alluded to, the engagement was twofold. First was the roundtable discussion facilitated by Protection Services which then escalated into a public dialogue where students had the opportunity to interact with external delegates.

The South African Police Services, Community Police Forum, Private Security, Mangaung Metropolitan Municipality, Provincial Commissioner, and Deputy Minister of Police were well represented in this critical conversation. Internally, members of Protection Services, Housing and Residence Affairs, Student Affairs, Institute for Social Justice and Reconciliation, Student Representative Council, and the Department of Criminology heard the plight of off-campus safety faced by students.

Changes in the horizon

The discussions culminated with recommendations which will see the future of student safety take a different direction. According to Skhululekile Luwaca, former SRC president, these include “the municipality’s commitment to immediately address issues such as street lights and enforcing by-laws, ensuring an integrated accreditation system, and drafting a policy for off-campus accommodation, running more crime awareness campaigns, and giving police patrols more visibility.”

In addition to resolving to set up a student safety forum with all the stakeholders, the Mangaung Metropolitan Municipality has invited the UFS to join Reclaim the City – a safety forum where practical solutions to crime are devised and implemented on a weekly basis.


News Archive

UFS implements paperless meeting system
2004-08-20

 

The Management Committee of the University of the Free State ’s (UFS) Executive Management recently entered the electronic environment of more effective and centralised meeting and decision-making administration by implementing ‘n computerised meeting system.

With this the UFS became the first higher education institution in the world to use the PARNASSUS-meeting management system. PARNASSUS , which refers to a mountain in the Greek mythology, is a licensed system from CIPAL in Belguim – a developer of software for a variety of applications.

“In stead of coming to a weekly management meeting with a file of documentation, each member now walks in with his/her laptop and the whole meeting procedure takes place electronically,” says Prof Sakkie Steyn, Registrar: General at the UFS.

At the same time the secretary registers the minutes point by point on the PARNASSUS programme. At the end of the meeting, after certain technical finishes are done, the minutes are distributed to members of the meeting and their secretaries/office managers. The draft minutes is also distributed to those who must implement decisions and prepare implementation steps. These staff members are given security clearance beforehand.

“The system is unique due to the fact that a translation engine has been built into the agenda and minute system. Agenda items can be submitted in Afrikaans and then automatically be translated in English by means of the interactive translation engine, or vice versa. The same principle applies to the minutes,” says Prof Steyn.

According to Prof Steyn the translation engine was develop with the expert assistance of the UFS’s Unit for Language Facilitation and Empowerment (ULFE). Word strings from previous minutes are now being added to the corpus of the translation engine.

“The system enables the secretary to continuously monitor which points are submitted for the agenda and if these points comply with the set standards namely clear recommendations, background and proposed implementation steps. The agenda is closed at a certain moment and no new points can then be added. The secretary does certain technical finished by means of a final classification of point and annexures. The draft agenda is then sent to the chairperson for approval, after which the agenda is electronically sent to members of the meeting and their secretaries/office managers for preparation,” says Prof Steyn.

“After the minutes have been approved at the next meeting, it is saved on the PARNASSUS decisions data base. The tracing of decisions made during previous meetings can be done by any person with the necessary security clearance. This is different from the past where stacks of documents had to be searched to find a decision,” says Prof Steyn.

According to Prof Steyn the secretariat and meeting administration services at the UFS has now entered a fully virtual and electronic environment. This will enhance effective decision making tremendously. “The PARNASSUS system saves us costs and time and the decentralisation of submissions to meetings lessens the work at centralised points,” says Prof Steyn.

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