THE EXECUTIVE management of the University of Cape Town has distanced itself from an offensive research paper by a professor which asks why black students in South Africa are less likely to consider studying biological sciences. The academic research paper, penned by UCT professor Nicoli Natrass, is entitled “Why are black South African students less likely to consider studying biological sciences?,” and appeared in the South African Journal of Science at the end of May.
The UCT executive said it was concerned that the paper has methodological and conceptual flaws that raise questions about the standard and ethics of research at UCT.
The executive said in a statement that it distances itself from the content of the paper and has launched an investigation into the matter.
“The paper is constructed on unexamined assumptions about what black people think, feel, aspire to and are capable of. The commentary by Professor Natrass offers an example of research that is unable to examine the historical and ideological roots of academic disciplines and that is equally unaware of the role that power differentials have in closing or opening possibilities and choices in the life of individuals and communities,” the university executive said.
“The paper is offensive to black students at UCT; black people in general and to any academic who understands that the quality of research is inextricably linked to its ethical grounding.”
The university said it viewed the incident as yet another opportunity to renew its resolve to foster a university culture that is aligned with UCT values and that is sensitive, inclusive and free of racial prejudices.
“UCT welcomes rigorous and respectful debate on all issues pertaining to transformation. We endorse the right of critical review and response to published academic work, including in this case, commentaries, and the right of reply in these academic forums. We affirm our commitment to dealing with any instances of racism, sexism, discrimination of any sort or any unethical behaviour.”
(Compiled by Inside Education staff)