It is the east, and Max is the sun.... Apologies to W Szekspir; however, Retroid was sufficiently moved by yesterday's
opening of Mr Price UCT coronation inauguration of our new VC, to perceive a glimmer of light through the gloom that is OUTM.
Cue appropriate image: thanks to the traffic in Little Mowbray this morning I was going back to the highway instead of escaping it, and caught this on the trusty PDA.
Quite appropriate, I thought: a luminous body trying bravely to overcome the all-encompassing, enveloping grey mist.
Which brings us on to the occasion: a beautiful warm evening - Retroid's partner dug him in the ribs for suggesting the hazy golden light was all due to pollution - with begowned academics scattered all over Jammie Steps. Someone in a plain red job made an idle remark about needing a guide book to identify the more exotic plumage - something along the lines of the Hasid Spotter's Guide you can get in Jerusalem, in fact, to help you identify the more exotic specimens.
And truly, there were some wonderful gowns on offer - with simply stunning hats to go with them. Mortar boards, soft floppy ones, things like bishop's mitres....
Never one to suffer hat envy - I boycotted the tea cosy I was offered in my PhD graduation - Retroid was nonetheless amused to feel a twinge of academic envy when it became evident that our orderly two lines of processioners who had formed up - obedient to The Hugh's urgings - early on, were in fact not only not the front-rankers, but were in fact the third ranked academics. There were mutters of "What did you have to do / who did you have to sleep with to get in that bunch, then??" I suggested we practice processing by marching into the tent in front of us and having a drink or two, and it nearly happened - but no, sense prevailed.
And we waited. And we waited some more. The marimba band was pretty good, mind, and I saw more than one trouser leg or skirt twitching in time to stuff ranging from "Mama Tembu's Wedding" to "Take Five". All the more so because we became their captive audience, given that we were right in front of them, and we were royally entertained.
Now although Retroid did in fact know the majority of folk nearest him, it was obvious that this occasion - unlike the discipline-segregated graduations - was truly one where those from NOJS and SOJS could mingle, on JS, pre-postmodernly and intertextually, as true comrades. A pity that this is so rare....
Then at last the off, and we third-rankers processed in a dignified manner, in our appointed lines, up the steps, to pass from marimba rhythms into the far more formal "Gaudeamus" being rendered by a mass choir.
Retroid thought that this particular archaic Latin offering had been benched in recent times: he recalls one particularly entertaining moment in Senate a while ago when someone expressed the wish to have something played that was more appropriate for an
accountant-led African class world research-led world class African University. Like "Shosholoza, possibly? And how many verses does that thing have?? It lasted the whole procession, with only one age-challenged person in front of Retroid in the expensive seats bravely mouthing her way through nearly all of it.
While we're on the subject of music, Retroid has to admit suffering through the later excerpt from Mozart's "Don Giovanni": like the former offering, incomprehensible except to the initiated. I can think of many more appropriate musical interludes. Like Dollar Brand/Abdullah Ibrahim's "Mannenburg", heard by Retroid in that very venue in 1974.
And in the expensive seats up front, who else but The Arch, Cape Town and UCT's own Godzille - and Trevor's Manual of Fiscal Rectitude.
I looked with interest on the stage for Obi-Wan, but the Absent Registrar was not obvious. Mind you, Retroid has little idea what the alleged functionary looks like, given his habit of labouring deep under some rock in Bremner, emerging only to defend the indefensible from time to time.
The Archie Mafeje segment was touching: Retroid had no idea that OUTM had in fact snubbed him in the 1990s - but then, no-one tells us up North anything.
The meat of the occasion, and the cause for the light in the east, was Max Price's address to the UCT congregation. If you weren't there, you can read it in here; suffice it to say for the details that Retroid's partner remarked that it was the same speech he gave in Senate while job-hunting, only longer - which at least means he's consistent, and that he's thought about it since.
One novel idea was the one concerning the creation of Pro-Vice Chancellor posts, to manage certain key research thrusts at UCT (given that OUTM is a business and does no research, it does not come into this). Retroid was especially interested in the identification of HIV/AIDS and TB as a key area, as this is not a thousand km from what he and friends do. However, as a taxonomist, he is also a little bothered by the dependency of the chain of command upon the Chancellor. You know, Chancellor, Vice Chancellor, Deputy Vice Chancellor (which seems a slight on those worthies, given they do have jobs, and do not only deputise) - and now Pro-Vice Chancellor. Retroid would like to suggest the following as a reductio ad absurdam:
Chancellor: as is
Or just title them something different entirely: like Chancellor, Principal, Vice Principals and Research Deans??
But we digress. The vision of the new Semi-Chancellor is that we - as an African University - should be the place where others come to learn of Africa. He also sees a revitalisation of research, and not only in the niche areas where we underfunded African researchers crawl, in order to have something novel to publish on. Viva! we say to this, viva!
As the Hon Naledi Hall Pandor MP ANC said, we are in for interesting times with Max Price.
Bring them on....