FRED LOGEVALL: Well, good afternoon to one and all. Delighted to have you here this afternoon. My name is Fred Logevall and I am the director of Mario Einaudi Center. I'm also serving as vice provost for international affairs and I am a faculty member in the Department of History.
And so good to have you with us on a beautiful fall day in Ithaca for this talk, which is part of our Einaudi Center Distinguished Foreign Policy Speakers Series. And if you've had a chance to look at the program, you'll see that we do indeed have a very I think distinguished roster of speakers in this series. Is aptly named, and of course, today's guest is no exception.
What we're really trying to do with this series, as I think some of you know, is to harness the expertise that exists in academia, in business, in government, in various walks of life that speaks to issues of contemporary international concern. So we define, for the purpose of this series, foreign policy very broadly indeed. Some might say so broadly that it loses its meaning, but I think that's the way it should be. And I think it's one of the reasons why the series has been as successful as it's been.
And so we bring people into campus several times a year and have our guest give a talk like this to a general audience, and also, at least in most instances, meet in a more intimate setting with students when we can. And there's also a dinner as well. And we have, I should say very briefly also, a network here on campus of faculty, in various colleges and various departments, who have expertise in this broad area. And so this is also part of a foreign policy network that we have, and we'd slot this series-- if I can put it that way-- into that network.
A current events class that we're very excited about that also connects to this on issues in contemporary world politics. And beginning this year, we have a post-doctoral fellowship program, and I see at least one member of this very distinguished first class in the form of Daniel Bester, one of our two inaugural Einaudi post-docs, again, on this theme of foreign policy in broad context. Very grateful for support that we're getting for this lecture series.
I just want to issue a couple of words of thanks to the Sao Giacomo Charitable Foundation, to Mrs. Judy Biggs, and also to the Bartels family. I also want to note that today's talk is part of the Messenger Lecture Series, which is supported by the University Lecture Committee, and that's important to note. So this is really in two series I guess you could say, this talk.
Couple of quick upcoming events that I just want to draw your attention. One is a little bit awkward to mention, because I'm the speaker. But I'm going to blame [? Hikah ?] for this here-- in the second row-- and she is I think quite right to indicate that we are going to have our annual Einaudi Center fall reception on November 18 in Biotech G10. And as part of that reception, I'm going to give a talk. I'm going to be introduced by Provost Fox, and I'm going to speak on "Global Cornell: Why It Matters," and that's going to be on November 18 at 4:30 in the afternoon, Biotech G10, and then lots of food, and live jazz, and wine, and other things. So if you don't come to the talk at least come to the reception.
Second, I want to mention that during International Education Week, this is going to be on that same week November 21, we're going to organize the 2013 Lund Critical Debate. We do this every year because of the generosity of Mrs. Biggs, who I mentioned, and it's going to be I believe-- am I right [? Hikah-- ?] at 4:30 in the afternoon--
--in the Statler Auditorium. This year's theme I think more au courant than we could have imagined, if you've looked at the headlines today or yesterday, is "Death By Drones-- Are They Illegal?" That is to say "the deaths." I was a little worried about the grammar of this sentence, but our chief organizer, Matt Evangelista, said, no, it's correct. "Death By Drones: Are They Illegal?"
And this debate will feature Mary O'Connell of the University of Notre Dame Law School and Michael W. Lewis of Ohio Northern University. He is a former Topgun pilot of the US Air Force. The two of them will debate drones in the context of American foreign policy.
Today, however, we are here to talk about, I think it's fair to say, a very different subject. I'm delighted to introduce Jonathan Jansen, who is Vice-Chancellor and Rector of the University of the Free State in South Africa. He's going to be talking to us about the role of higher education in the development of South Africa.
And Professor Jansen is a longtime Cornell friend, and so it's a particular pleasure to welcome you back today. I'll say a word or two about that in a moment. He was elected in 2010 as a fellow of the Academy of Science of the Developing World. He is also a visiting fellow at the National Research Foundation.
He has received several honors and honorary degrees in his illustrious career. If I'm not mistaken, he's about to receive another one, which is from the University of Vermont, I believe, if I'm not mistaken, next year. Professor Jansen has published several books, including Knowledge In The Blood, from Stanford University Press.
He has co-authored Diversity High: Class Color Character and Culture in South African High School, published in 2008. In these and other works, he examines how cultural leaders-- how education leaders balance the dual imperatives of reparation and reconciliation in their leadership practice. Knowledge In The Blood received an outstanding book recognition award from the American Educational Research Association.
Professor Jansen serves as Vice President of the South African Academy of Science and leads major studies on behalf of the Academy, including an inquiry in the role of the South African doctorate, PhD, in the global knowledge economy and on the future of the humanities in South Africa. He was a Fulbright scholar to Stanford University, former dean of Education at the University of Pretoria, and an honorary doctorate of education from the University of Edinburgh.
He is a former high school biology teacher and he completed his undergraduate education at the University of Western Cape, and his teaching credentials at UNISA, and he has also postgraduate education. I want to draw your attention to a particular degree, namely a master's degree, from Cornell University, and I'm somewhat less happy to note, a PhD from Stanford. Now, that's not a bad place either.
In addition, however, Professor Jansen has been with us at Cornell before, and it's always a special pleasure to welcome back friends who are coming back to us on a return visit. And I want to ask you now to join me in welcoming our guest, Professor Jansen.
JONATHAN JANSEN: Thank you very much, everyone, and thank you for coming. And it's been absolutely wonderful to be back in this beautiful part of the United States where I started my thinking career. It was a scary day the first day, very scary. I was intimidated.
People here in this part of the world don't greet you when you walk past them or look serious, and angry, and short-tempered. And here was this South African coming wanting to hug everybody and nobody wanted to hug him back, and I was delighted to see in Alice Cook House nothing has changed. And so I tried to make eye contact with the kids. They just won't look at you. This is very difficult for me, but what a wonderful place to start your career there.
The first person I met was my supervisor, a man called Joseph Novak, Joe Novak, and I was scared and intimidated. I was a high school teacher. I didn't think I'd ever go to university, let alone out of the country. And when I got to his office, which was the education department was in the agricultural science building or something like that. There he was and he said, you must be the man from Africa.
Now at that stage, I didn't feel like telling him that Africa was a very big place with many different countries. I just was-- so he said, you must be the man from Africa. I said, yes sir. He said, here's a manuscript. It was supposed to go to Harvard University Press last week, but I kept it because I needed your comments on the manuscript.
It was the first time in my entire life that I wet myself in public. I was scared to death. And I went home and I told my wife, I think we made a huge mistake.
Anyway, I worked through the night and I probably wrote the biggest load of crap you could imagine. And I gave it to him, and he took it, and he never said anything to me again about the manuscript. But I realized years later why he actually did that, and that's so different from South African culture.
It wasn't that he-- I think, if you knew Joe, he wanted by comments, but that wasn't the primary reason. The real goal was to sort or say, you come here as my equal. I expect you to speak. I expect you to have an opinion. I expect you to give me feedback.
And that's the beauty of American higher education compared to South Africa, where they tell you on the first day, to this day, that by the end of the first semester half of you will have dropped out. That's not a nice thing to tell scared students. So I want to thank you, and in my culture you always thank your teachers-- Professor Edmonson-- who made a huge impact on my thinking as a young student. And thank you very much to Cornell University.
But it's good to be here. I got some of your names wrong, because-- I apologize for that. And earlier this year it happened again. It was horrible.
One of the things you have to do as a university president, as you call people in my position, is you've got to get money. Now, people in Southern Africa have caught onto this. You've got to get money somewhere. So now I go and I get money.
And there is a very rich South African family in New York and they live in the Trump Towers on the East Side. Man, you know you're in the wrong place when you go up those elevators in the top floor and there's some very rich young entrepreneurs and famous people. And then I saw the most famous actress, the best actress in the entire world-- my favorite actress ever since the kitchen scene in Fatal Attraction. And her name tag was next to mine and I couldn't believe I was going to see Glenn Close.
And eventually she came through the door, and like a bloody idiot, I ran towards her. I said, Glenn Close, I've watched every movie that-- the normal. I have seen all your movies. You remember this-- blah, blah, blah. Poor woman was so alarmed. And I said, I never thought I could love Margaret Thatcher--
JONATHAN JANSEN: --but the way you played Maggie in The Iron Lady. And then I saw her whole face change and I knew I had done something wrong. The problem is I didn't know what. And so all I knew at this stage is, shut up. Don't say another word.
And she just looked at me and she said, that was Meryl Streep. Fortunately, one of the few advantages of being black is you can't blush. So I got away with all of that. But it's good to be here and-- that's what she did. She just started to laugh and that eased the tension.
But it's good to be here. And I want to talk to you a little bit about some theoretical work that I've been sort of working on now for the past few months. I work at the University of the Free State. It's in the middle of South Africa.
And most people, like my friend over here, say exactly the same thing when I tell them where I'm from. And they say, we normally stop at the Shell garage, and putting gas, and keep going either to Johannesburg in the North or Cape Town in the South, but nobody stops in the Free State. And if you were Indian South African you couldn't even sleep there under the old legislation.
And so we had this ridiculous situation that the chief justice-- was a man called Ismail Mohammed-- and Ismail Mohammed had to drive all the way to Kimberley to go and sleep and then come back the next day. This is the most senior judge in the entire appellate division of the courts and so on. So it is a place that is known to be conservative, known to be very isolated, and known to be a very difficult place to go in there and try and change anything. And that's where I started.
Now, what I'm working with is this notion of nearness, the notion of what happens when you try to get close to people who are historical enemies, because that, for me, is really the fundamental challenge of higher education and development in South Africa. It's one thing to get students into university-- and the numbers have tripled since 1994-- but what do you do once they get there? And in particular, what are you doing in the former white universities when white and black students and faculty members have to find a way of being together in a place that was quite hostile to black people over 100 years? And that's where I found myself.
And as some of you know, we had a terrible tragedy in 2008 in which four white students racially abused five black workers twice or three times their ages. And one particular scene in that atrocity was the white students appearing to urinate into the food of the workers. And as part of this play the workers didn't know really, because they knew the students in another sense. They didn't realize they were being abused in this video which was made, and entered into a competition and won the award for the best video, protesting racial integration at the university.
It's because of that event that I got there. I'm quite convinced they wouldn't have hired me were it not for a sense of panic amongst the governors of the university-- is how are we going to get out of this mess that had not only made the university look very bad nationally, but also across the world? So I was quite eager to get there, because I'd written a book, as you acknowledged, In The Blood, which in some ways deals with this notion of how young people born after apartheid come to know about the past in such a powerful way that you could still have things happening like the one I just described. And so for the past four years and more, I have been struggling to find out how you get close to historical enemies in such a way that they no longer look like enemies in such a way that you deal with both the issues of social justice on the one hand, but also the issue of reconciliation on the other hand.
Now, the problem of being together is a complex one, because in many ways South Africans have always been together for three and half centuries. Black and white have been together, but the way in which you were together did not signify nearness. It might have suggested physical proximity, but certainly not nearness in the sense that I'm going to be using it today.
And so there was the physical proximity of the madam and the maid. There was the closeness of the mineworker and the mine bosses. There was the working together of the missionary worker, who ventures, however tentatively, into the township to save the souls of the native. And so we are not strangers to each other.
And very often, if you go to a province like KwaZulu Natel, white English-speaking South Africans would often say to you, but you know, we grew up together on the farms, the children of the farmer and the children of the laborers, and we even speak isiZulu. So you see, there, we actually know each other. But actually, you don't, as I'll demonstrate in a minute.
And so what does it mean to know? An interesting debate broke out recently between Wally Serote and Nadine Gordimer in that Nadine Gortimer said-- the Nobel laureate in literature-- we actually do know each other. We don't know how to express it. Wally Serote, the famous South African poet, said, no, no, no. We actually don't know each other and maybe we will get to know each other in some future state.
The problem for people looking in to this fake closeness or nearness is that people seem to get along until there is a crisis. So for example, when you have this FIFA soccer World Cup in South Africa you won't believe how you have these kumbaya moments, where black and white South Africans are hugging each other on television. And one of the games is played at the great stadium near Soweto and people are sort of going into Soweto, white folk, and this time not to shoot, but to barbecue, or braai as we call it. And you would be forgiven if you thought this was a wonderful display of nearness. Except it isn't, because the very next day we start to fight again, and call each other nicknames, and so on.
So what does it mean really to be near? And is there some theoretical purchase in this notion of nearness that we can work on beyond simply being in the same space, geographical space, and so on? Now, by the way, even that is too much or was too much for our university, because, as I said here before, when the students had to live together in the same residence, or dormitory, or whatever you call it here, that's when, particularly male students, white male students, and Afrikaan-speaking students in particular, found it exceptionally difficult because of this possibility that I might have to share a shower with you, that I might have to share a room with you. And that, of course, that kind of intimacy, was just too much.
Fast forward to today, and if you came to our campus you would find that the students are OK. Every one of them-- 33,167 of them-- are fine. My biggest challenge is interracial love affairs, and that's a problem not so much for the students, but for the parents.
Because the students, of course, would come to you and sort of say, Professor, [NON-ENGLISH LANGUAGE]. What that means is my dad will kill me if he finds out that my boyfriend is [INAUDIBLE]. It's never the mother. And I want to write a book one day on the role of the mother, because I do not believe the mother here is innocent at all. But the father's pushed forward as the protector of the pure white gene.
So that's what I work with. And as I said to my staff and my senate the other day, the students are fine. You are not. I have to work with you. But if you're a 61-year-old, has been in a white university for most of your life, it's been difficult to undo all of those mythologies, all of those lies. But for young people who are 18 years old entering our university, this is not difficult at all, thanks in part to a whole range of things that we did to enable this kind of nearness to happen.
So I found a very powerful piece of thought in the work of C.S. Lewis. And-- sorry, I've got to tell you this-- my son just got married. He was born here in Ithaca, New York in Tompkins County Community Hospital Medical, something like that. He wouldn't come. They had to force him out at 2:00 in the morning, and so he was born.
So this son of mine married a white girl, which caused a lot of trouble in my household. So he came to me and he said, dad, the wedding is upon us. This is this year. You have to meet Kat's family. I said, fine. So we drove up to Pretoria to meet the enemy.
JONATHAN JANSEN: And we booked the restaurant, and on the one side of the table set the white Bartletts and on the other side set the black Jansens. And my son came to me and he said, dad, whatever you do, do not embarrass me. I said, you know me. Have I ever embarrassed you? And of course, he rolled his eyes and so on.
So at the appointed time-- I waited for the green stuff to go by, the salads, and then I pounced. Mikhail and Kat were sitting on the edge of the-- by the way, the reason we called him Mikhail was-- when he was born, it was the time of the Geneva Summit, and we were so impressed with Mikhail Gorbachev overpowering, intellectually at least, Ronald Reagan, which wasn't difficult. So our son is named Mikhail.
So he and Kat were sort of sitting on the edge of their seats. So I said to the Bartlet family, so what first crossed your minds when my son decided to darken your doorstep?
JONATHAN JANSEN: Oh, my poor kids. They went under the table laughing. And then Kat's mother-- in working class English, which I love-- she said, "Well, I said to myself, Brenda, Brenda, I said, are you truly a non-racist?"
I jumped up from behind my side of the table, ran over to her, gave her a big hug. I said, I can work with you. Welcome to our family. You're not like all these other South Africans that believe they fell out of space and we've never been racist.
We've never been-- because I'm struggling with stuff. You're struggling with stuff. We can work this out. She's become a really great friend.
My son is a very serious Christian, so you reads C.S. Lewis and quizzes me on this great guy. C.S. Lewis said something in The Four Loves. It goes like this-- "Friendship exhibits a glorious nearness by resemblance."
Now, so the literature people will tell me that comes from Wordsworth and not from C.S. Lewis. "A glorious nearness by resemblance to heaven itself, where the very multitude of the blessed increases the fruition which is each as of God." It's a long quote, but then it says, "The more we thus share the heavenly bread between us, the more we shall all have."
Now this notion of nearness by resemblance is very similar to Inga Clendinnen's notion of recognition or the recognition of likeness. What happens when in approaching historical enemies the quality and the nature of that relationship becomes something much more meaningful than physical proximity? And so I tried this out over four years with my students.
Now, I have a team of 33 people. Some of you have met them. And I want to thank you, again, for taking on six to nine students every year as part of our attempt to break the students out of their geographical isolation and give them a sense of awareness of a bigger world in which difficult issues have to be worked through. And so the team does this, and I'm just going to tell you about this from my perspective.
So the first is the notion of nearness beyond physical proximity. So obviously I will never meet all 33,000 students. That's impossible-- on three campuses, one, three hours, four hours drive away. But what we can do, and each one of us endeavors to do this as 33 leaders, is how to get close in other ways.
So somewhere between this morning and now, even though South Africa is six hours ahead of East coast time, I've been able to solve quite a number of problems simply using Twitter. Now, I have 54,000 I think followers on Twitter. Some of those come from the presidency, as they spy on me, but the others, the majority I like to believe, are actually students from different universities, but many others. And so when a student says to me, Professor-- this really happened this morning-- we've not had hot water since three hours ago in JBM Hertzog residence. Could you help us sort it out, because nobody is listening to us? And of course, five minutes later they have hot water.
The issue is not that I am responding. The issue is not the hot water. The issue is that the student, whom I have never met, has a sense of being heard. That makes it possible to solve other problems, as I'll show you in a minute.
So what does this mean? It certainly means that all 33 of us, myself included, are out of the office most of the time. Now that's a very different notion of a university leader or leaders-- plural-- than the traditional idea of sitting in your office. Some of my fellow vice-chancellors at the universities, they close school up with joy at the prospect of signing a leave form. Now those things don't give me much of a kick. What really gives me a tick is being able to, with all of these leaders, to be present in the lives of students that make it possible-- now, my students are exactly the same like the Cornell students.
They avoid eye contact. They walk right past you. They don't greet and so on. No more, because of a conscious effort to be present in the lives of students in order to achieve other goals. So what does this nearness mean beyond being physically present in the lives of young people?
Secondly, students don't change their minds about themselves and others simply because you have good intentions, or simply because you have a diversity committee, or simply because you have wonderfully progressive policies. That doesn't change a thing. What changes things is when you alter, as Mahmood Mamdani wisely counseled me, when you alter the rules of the game.
So what was some of the rules of the game that we changed? Well, first of all, we did something that no other South African university has done, certainly not on this scale, and made it a requirement that every single student participates in a compulsory core in which they would learn astronomy, nanotechnology, ethics, law, history. I teach the history, which I'm busy doing today. So there's about two and half thousand kids, freshman, in one room.
Now, I have about 20 people supporting me with the teachings. There's a lot of lights, and stuff, and all sorts of technologies being deployed here, but we keep them there. And this question that I'm posing to these students in history is, how should we deal with the violent past? Now, here's a problem.
White students, in general, don't want to hear about the past. They're fed up of being the subject of scrutiny, of ridicule. So a typical white student in South Africa would say to you, listen, can we just leave the past behind us, please, and just move on? That was your problem, my parent's problem, I wasn't there. Let's just get on.
And of course, you have to tell the students, but you were there. And the reason you're living there and not there and going to that school and not that school is not an accident. And so we talk about the present past. We talked about crises that cannot explain themselves only in the present. And we go through these difficult issues, and a lot of emotion, a lot of tears sometimes, and a lot of media coverage, as you can imagine, from the conservative local press, but we press on.
And so for the students to be able to deal with a big question from the sciences, from the humanities, and so on, is a very, very important part of a broader education as opposed to what the student thinks they come to university for, which is to become an architect, or a geologist, or a teacher. Don't waste my time by educating me. Just give me the technical skills.
The problem with being technically proficient is you're producing people who are quite dangerous in a wounded society such as ours. And so part of the mediated action includes the study abroad. It includes almost 100 hours of intensive training for student leaders in dealing with difficult issues.
And I always find it so incredibly fun when the students come back and says, we've learned a new acronym in America. I said, what did you learn? LGBT. I said, OK, progress, and so on. And so think-- because remember, South Africa's primary sin wasn't race. It was difference. It was our inability to deal with anything that was different from what was the established norm, and so race just happened to be the most obvious schism in society over many centuries.
And then, of course, there is a nearness that has to be established in real time. So people sort of find this odd, but we spend quite a bit of time being physically outside and saying to students-- and this is a typical day in the week-- come and talk to us about anything that's bothering you. Now, the menu goes from my boyfriend that left me for another guy to difficulties with a lecturer in Biology 307 to my parents. But the notion of a student having a place, at least once a week in different parts of the university, where you can come and talk about what's really, really disturbing you is such an important part for us of demonstrating nearness and so on. So being there, both physically and in other ways, is a very important part of our transformation strategy.
My dean of students does this 100 times more often than I do. It's amazing, and he leads a team of 20 people they do nothing else. When a student of ours gets into an accident, a car accident-- and unfortunately, 18-year-olds with a driver's license in South Africa means that they bust up cars regularly. When a student gets into hospital we are physically there at the bedside of the student.
We call the parents. We make sure that that student is fully taken care of. And so every single student who hurts, whether it's HIV positive test and the student wants to talk about it, whether it is, as I said, a physical accident, whether it is-- the other day a student said to me, my grandmother is from Klerksdorp.
Now, if you know anything about Klerksdorp and you're black, you normally drive past there very quickly. But here's this white kid. He says, my grandmother is in hospital and she wanted me to tell you that she's not doing well. So I said, OK, what's your grandmother's cell phone number?
So we call the grandmother on the spot. Grandmother almost had another attack when she heard us. And the meaning to very conservative people who had never before had anybody make contact at that level, the meaning for that first-year student, the freshman student, is so real because of our collective attempts to be present in the lives of young people who often feel quite isolated on university campuses.
Food. There's a woman who wrote a beautiful book. She used to be the cook for Nelson Mandela, and we brought it to the campus, and we talked about how she could help us make food part of the reconciliation process.
If any of you are interested, I'd be very happy to give you-- in fact, if you wanted to really out-of-the-box speaker in one of your series, you get the said woman to come over here. And she cooked for Nelson Mandela.
And her whole approach to food is to think of food as a way of bringing people together who wouldn't otherwise do so. And so we've brought her to campus and just thought about what we eat. Now, if you come to the Free State, the traditional food-- this is very difficult for me. The average Free Stater eats red meat for breakfast. In fact, they make jokes about this.
They say, if-- this cannot be translated well into English, but I'll try. They say, you're in the Free State. We eat meat, and if we need a salad, we'll kill a pig. It doesn't quite translate as well into English, but it's the notion of "tough country," "red meat country," and so on.
And then I realized that more and more of the people I was hiring as professors were Jewish, were Muslim, were-- I don't even know this word and what it means. Have you heard this vegan story? Somebody can tell me what it is. I'd be quite happy.
And so food itself becomes very important. Many of our Muslim faculty and students felt quite distant from the place because there was no attempt to even make or consider halal food. In fact, there was quite an arrogance initially. If you come here, you will eat our foods. And I said, wait a minute, wait a minute, wait a minute. This is a public university. Let's get that straight. In here, anybody can come in and require a place to pray, a place to eat foods that they're comfortable with, and so on and so forth. So of course, we got that through.
Now, that doesn't happen by negotiating with people. As I found out, that's elitist. Some of the things you have to use the cultural ethos, which allows you as a university president to say this is going to happen. You just gotta to make sure you don't do it too often. In other words, you got to do it in [INAUDIBLE], because you can lose long-term gains, like building a truly democratic institution if you overuse the authority available to you to say how things should be. But this is all part of the strategy.
Now, every single student here whom I invite to breakfast once a week at 7:00 in the morning to just sit down and talk, that food is chosen very carefully. Every one of these young people has a story. The young woman sitting there, I call her Catwoman-- and she's the opening story in my new book, We Need To Act-- She discovered stray cats on campus.
So what she did, as an animal science student, she caught the stray cats and sterilized them. I don't know if that would work in Ithaca, but she just went out there and sterilized the cats. And eventually, of course, she realized it's quite expensive. So she called me and said, can you help me? Could you be part of this project as the university and pay for the sterilization and so on?
What I liked about this kids was, number one, the notion of being an activist without anybody having to tell her this is an important thing to do. And then by the way, should put the stray cats back onto campus to control the rat population. Now, I didn't know there were stray cats and I didn't know there were rats.
JONATHAN JANSEN: And this is part of activism, your ability to see poverty when everybody else looks past it. It's invisible. Your ability to see a dilemma, and this is what I really, really like about my work with young people and so on. So she's come to breakfast.
[? Lasayho ?] [? Shupen, ?] the woman in the wheelchair there, is the head of the university's rugby team. So she comes to my office with three huge white guys. She says, Professor, we have a problem. We want to play rugby, but the administration is making it very difficult because all of us have disabilities. So I would like to have the space to practice rugby immediately.
If you have ever met [? Lasayho, ?] that is not a question. That is not a request. You just bow obediently and you make sure it happens. And I absolutely love her toughness and so on.
The young lady next to her has a very, very sad story, and she told me I could share parts of it. She was almost very badly assaulted, and she overcame great difficulty. Every single one of his kids has a story.
And part of the role of leadership is to make sure that that student, whether it's a disability, whether it is courageous activism, whether it is overcoming a terrible assault, the role of leadership is to make those students heard, seen, and recognized in order to create the kind of social cohesion that our constitution speaks about and so on. So that is how my team of 33 thinks about food, as a way of bringing people into communion.
The problem with the kind of work we are doing is that most people think that this approach is soft. It bends over backwards to accommodate white people. It makes it easier for people who do wrong to remain in the system. It's actually quite the opposite.
And the person who understood that, as I was telling some of you the other night over dinner, was the former head of the ANC Youth League, a very angry not very smart kid, called Julius Malema. And he understood that the way-- after I explained it to him-- that the way in which you deal with racism, especially amongst young people, is both to indicate that it is wrong and to make sure that this is set right through the courts, et cetera-- whatever the relief is-- that the victim's sick. But then what do you do?
You bring those persons back in order to have the kind of difficult conversations that lead to a recognition of the problem. Because somebody putting out 18-year-olds who've committed racist acts back onto the streets is very dangerous in a country such as ours. And so a big part of what we do, both through the formal curriculum as well as through a whole lot of training opportunities, is to talk about these difficult things.
Now, this I have seen with one of the guys who was involved in the so-called "race incident." I hired him in our marketing department. If that doesn't wake you up, nothing will. So here's a way to deal with a racist-- put them in your marketing department.
And you know, as I worked with the kid and he started to understand his depravity and what he did wrong-- because as that awareness came to him-- it was slow, it didn't just happen-- the level of anxiety, the level of pain, the level of self-loathing was unbelievable. And he now helps us, through the South African Human Rights Commission, to deal with racism in the Free State province, whether it's through these right-wing churches, or whether it is at one of these two schools at the moment that we're dealing with. And he says, Professor, let me do it please, because they don't understand what they're doing wrong. And so truth telling is a very important part of this difficulty.
By the way, in yesterday's campus newspaper is one of the best editorials I've read in a university by one of your student journalists on Cornell's courage, but also how it fall short in dealing with diversity, particularly as regards international students. I keep forgetting the name of this young woman journalist.
[? Jinjoo. ?]
Is it [? Jinjoo? ?]
OK, but it's a great article. Please read that and so on. But it's about truth telling.
And then, of course, this notion. Now, I can prove this to you if I had more time. When you work with historical enemies on terms that allow for an intimate engagement, you will change. I don't care how bitter you are as a black person, because I was very bitter. I don't care how racist the other person is.
But when you begin to engage on terms that makes it possible to have communion, that makes it possible not just to be together, but to come together in the way that I've described, you begin to recognize each other's humanity. You begin to recognize each other's weaknesses. You begin-- now, this is not a case for moral equivalence. Please don't misunderstand this.
This is not a case of talking up the perpetrator. This is a case of when you approach each other, not from the point of view as I'm whole, I'm OK, I've been done in, and you, the bloody racist, who needs to be brought to a knowledge of the truth. That's not the approach. The approach is completely different, and this is what I saw happening with these two kids.
Now, the young woman on the right is from a place called Welkom. You don't want to be in Welkom. The word means "welcome." It doesn't mean that if you're black.
She is from this place called Welkom. It's a very conservative old mining town, but the mines have shut down for the most part in Welkom, the gold mines. So it's a very poor area.
And she used to get very high marks in school and then her parents both died within months of each other. And out of frustration-- and she's living on the streets as a poor white and she has to feed-- and she gets pregnant, and now she's got to feed her baby, and she doesn't have anything.
So she loses her bursary or scholarship, but somehow makes it into the university, and makes it into the university as a person with very good marks, getting 90% in almost everything. The problem is, she couldn't eat. There was no money to eat.
My wife and I and a few friends run a project I spoke about yesterday called the "No Student Hungry Project," and we gave her a food bursary. So she sits in her class and discovers that the guy next to her that's from Kimberley-- she's from Welkom-- that he doesn't have food to eat. And so instead of taking this little bit of food that she gets through the program to feed her family, that is the baby and the unemployed fiancee, she uses that money, splits the little bit of money, to help this guy eat.
So what binds them together here is not the epidermis. What binds them together is another need, and that is hunger. And so she comes into my office one day-- this is how I knew about the story-- and she's crying. And in my office I normally have a big tissue box, but that's for the faculty.
JONATHAN JANSEN: But she started to use up all the tissues in this box and I didn't know what was going on. I didn't know the story at that point. And then suddenly, while she's still recovering, he walks in and he starts to cry.
And I said, oh my god, what is this? Bring your tears to work day? Come on, guys.
Help me out. What is going on? And then he tells the story of how this student helped him with his problem of hunger and how, in that process, they became the best of friends and so on and so forth.
You have to see-- this is one story among hundreds. You have to see this every single day to see how, that when you change the terms on which young people engage each other, they begin to look alike, they begin to resemble each other. And I think this is what C.S. Lewis means by this nearness by resemblance that happens when you create these conditions for being together.
And then most of you or some of you will recall my favorite picture of all time, which-- I have to confess to you, I am socially quite conservative. So even though in other ways I think I'm-- so for example, I read-- so the other day in front of my office I find this beautiful white kid, girl, and this very handsome black guy exploring each other's tonsils. And being conservative, I sort of rushed towards them. Can you please do this discovery somewhere else instead right in front of my office? And then I stopped. And I said, you know what? Archbishop Tutu once told me, when he walked across our campus and he saw these-- he said, you know, you should give these kids more space, because at least they're loving each other and not killing each other anymore.
And this was where it started, when this young woman ran onto the rugby field, so happy that the lad forward in the rugby game, the guy on his knees, had scored the winning try against the old enemy, which is Northwest University, and she ran onto the field. This is a year after riots after that terrible incident, and out of sheer joy she grabbed his face and planted a kiss on his juicy lips. And I didn't see that and most people didn't see that until the next day when the coach gave me this photograph. She started all of this nonsense of our students beginning to come together.
But this takes an enormous amount of courage. It is still difficult for me, in some circumstances, to simply move towards a complete stranger and particularly somebody that I don't have reasons historically to trust. Over most of that, imagine what it means for a young person in a university that was still, at that point, seething with anger. Imagine being able to take it.
The young people that really impressed me in South Africa are those who, against expectation, against history, against the dominant political atmosphere, go against that grain and embrace the other side. There's a lot of that at our university. There needs to be more of that in the country. Those are the young people I want to work with, because I think-- so for example, in some of our residences which are still largely black-- there's about 3 or 4 out of the 25-- I admire the white students who sort of say, even though I'm going to be a very small minority here, I am going to live there, and be there, and participate in that residence. Those students intrigued me, because I believe they have those qualities that will make them leaders in a very difficult space or in a difficult place.
The kids who, like everybody else, are scared of the tipping point, as the American literature calls it when it comes to school desegregation, those kids are like everybody else, but the kids who go against that grain are the ones that really inspired me to think. And so what are we trying to do with our students is identify those who are able to stand up as South Africans in the middle of a xenophobic incident, or to stand up in the middle of sexist jokes, as men who are able to stand up in a group of white guys and say that is inappropriate language that you've just used, those are the students that intrigue me. And obviously, our role as leaders is to create more and more such students who, in a difficult country, are able to demonstrate the kind of nearness that I've spoken about.
And so I think the wonderful thing about nearness as a construct for thinking about transformation in South African universities is it takes the debate away from what happens in the country at the moment. In fact, there's another report coming out on racism in universities that the minister of education and training has just commissioned. That report is done.
But it's a report that works on the notion that, if you can express moral outrage and say how bad the other side is, that somehow that translates into appropriate behavior. I don't believe that. That somehow if you add yet another set of policies, that defines appropriate behavior, that some of you get it. That's the one approach, the moral outrage, and then, of course, the policy impulse is make more policies and hope to change.
I don't believe that's how you change institutions or individuals. I believe you change it by completely rethinking the way in which human beings come together in contested spaces and create a new terrain for engagement that goes beyond just judgment and corrective action and begins to rethink who we are as we approach this nearness by resemblance. I hope that makes sense. I'm quite happy to field some questions. Thank you very much.
Yes, sir, professor?
AUDIENCE: Can you say something a little more about the border demography of the Free State in terms of from which students are drawn? You mentioned the universities [INAUDIBLE]. How did they actually transfer people [INAUDIBLE]?
JONATHAN JANSEN: That's right. So you have some very interesting issues for me to think about. Number one is the province itself. As you know, is very sparsely populated. It's not a very big province, but it was occupied historically by really two groups of people, if I may be crude.
The one what sort of Afrikaan white and the other was Basotho black, for lack of a better term. So the children of President Steyn and the children of King Mosheshwe. That's it.
And so these two crude nationalisms were the only ideologies really that defined the place. As I said the other day, there was no Communist party. There was no strong Jewish movement. There wasn't a strong Islamic community presence.
It was boring. It was sort of these two rigid ideologies or ways of-- or nationalisms, if you will. And what that meant was that the university very, very determinedly set itself up as a white Afrikaans university for people of the Free State.
And in the late '90s, as universities were forced to open the doors of learning, to use the charter, black students started to trickle in. The problem is the black students came in in very, very small numbers, because of the fact that they were not accommodated in the residences. Eventually, of course, that thing blew over and blacks used that to come in. But it was still predominantly white Afrikaans in culture, and ethos, and in numbers.
And then, of course, by sheer thrust of the need for higher education in that region, black students started to approach the 50% mark. And by the time I came there, it was more or less that. We now have about 65% black students, but as part of our action we wanted to make sure that the black students did not only come from the Free State, that they came from Zimbabwe, that they came from KawZulu Natel, that they came from Cape Town, that they came from Port Elizabeth. In other words, to make sure that you didn't have this perpetuation of historical rivalries in one place, and especially to get students, as we used to do by the way, from Losotho, which, as you know, is right next door. And that's the first thing.
The second thing, which has been part of my plan, is to make sure that, in socio-economic terms, you didn't have all the white students being middle class and all the black students being poor, because that in a way fit the stereotype. And so as part of a strategy of the past two and half years, we have gone out of our way to get black students from top private schools, black students from the top public schools, to make sure that in many of those classes the students would see black kids who are smarter than them, black kids-- and vice versa.
So that was not an accident to make sure that the students were not primarily from the Free State and not primarily from those two groups of people that I spoke about until such time that we become normal, until such time that the students see each other as human beings and not as an ethnicity, or a language group, or a religion, and so on and so forth. And that has helped enormously.
But the same holds for the professors. And so we quite strategically have gone out of our way to get professors from all over the world, because as I often say, that you're not a university if everybody looks the same, prays the same, makes love the same, and talks the same language. That's not a university. That's something else.
And my colleagues have been open to that idea and so on. So yeah, at the moment, I think things are going fairly well. We've not had the kind of violent protest that we used to see the first two years that I was there. I couldn't believe people would just wreck the place for fun, and you won't see that anymore, but it does take a huge amount of work from unbelievable leaders-- not me, my dean of students in particular and many others-- to make this work.
Now, that does create anxiety, I have to be honest, amongst the right-wing conservatives, and I had a bit of a taste of that the past two weeks, because people have a sense this is not the university which I studied in the 1960s. Well, it's not going to be again, as I told them. Forget that. It is a public university with a broader mission than the historical one. Yes, ma'am.
AUDIENCE: In my son's school-- the kid's 13 and I'm finding he's color blind. He really has no idea about the racial tensions that used to be. And it kind of breaks my heart to have to teach him about civil rights, because it's about the losing of his innocence. And I just wondered when that stage might be reached, or when you think that might be reached, or how you deal with history, teaching-- even tailor the history in teaching somehow so that [INAUDIBLE].
JONATHAN JANSEN: Well, I can only-- I don't know what context you're speaking about. So let me just talk about the Southern context, which I know quite well. I remember very clearly, at the age of seven, my daughter, who was born in this country, coming to us and said, dad, somebody just told me I'm colored. And I remember my heart dropping. I said, my dear, I said, my daughter, you're not colored. You're just a human being and so on.
And then the next time she came she said, dad, some of my friends said I can't come to their home for one of the girl's party because I must first wash my skin. If you're a parent you know that that stabs you at many different levels of your inner being. So whether we like it or not, sooner or later, no matter what you teach your kids, they are going to come home with other people's stories. They're going to come home and so on.
And then I've seen how my children would move towards puberty, and suddenly parents who were so liberal and sort of saying, oh, the kids play together and so on, they literally steer their kids away from forming the relationships once they get old. I've seen this. It's not even funny anymore.
So part of the problem as parents and how parents actually-- what stories parents tell their children about other people and how parents react in South Africa when there's a crisis. I always say to parents-- because now I do a lot of parental workshops these days. Parents always say, OK, OK, OK. You're always saying we're the problem and not our kids. So what can we do?
And I said, well, first of all, if the only people that your child sees at a come together on a weekend at a braai-- that's the barbecue, that's sort of national sport-- all look like you, and go to the same place of worship, and so on, I can tell you now your kid's going to have problems. So the extent to which your home is open, the extent to which they see your friendships are not predictable, the extent to-- that's the extent to which your kid can talk back, can buffer. And then it is important-- this is something I learned.
Many of you will remember a very well-known African-American media journalist called Charlayne Hunter-Gault. And Charlayne Hunter-Gault told me this story one day-- she now lives in Johannesburg-- that I'll never forget and that helped me as a young parent. She said, you know, when I went to the University of Georgia, I think it was, and they formed the welcoming party, she says, and all these white folk were sort of shouting, "nigger, go home, nigger go home," she says, I looked around for the nigger. Because her grandmother had placed such a sense of self, and of self-worth, and of confidence in her that whatever insult you were hurling at her she looked around to see who you're talking about.
And so I think part of, for me-- now, my problem with our children, particularly-- and most South African parents will tell you this-- the kids really, including my kids, they just don't want to talk too much about past. And I keep telling them, you've got to do that in order to answer back. But they get that as they grow older rather than-- the worst thing you can do in South African schools is to push history down the throats of kids. It's to sort of telling these are the good guys, these are the bad guys. That also doesn't help.
And so part of what we lack in the country is good history teaching that enables kids to face that past, not through the simplistic lens of good black/evil white, but in a way that makes those stories a little bit more nuanced than they actually-- that includes, by the way, stories of solidarity in addition to stories of injustice. Yes.
AUDIENCE: I have a question. Thanks for your presentation. And I wonder just on the structure of higher education system in South Africa, you mentioned-- so this is a public school. But what is, in general, the role of public schools in relation to private schools? And how do you see different contributions in the development of South Africa?
JONATHAN JANSEN: And I just realized our languages are not the same. So when you're talking about schools right now, you're talking about universities?
AUDIENCE: Oh, universities.
JONATHAN JANSEN: Yeah, OK. We don't have many private universities. In fact, we might have two or three, and they're very, very small. One of which is Monash, but you'll find Monash everywhere, the Australian University, with very, very few students, et cetera.
So the bulk of the system really-- 95%, 96% of students-- are served through this 23 public universities, and that's where the game is played. And unfortunately, those public universities still reflect their histories. So the historically black universities, with one exception, are still more or less as disadvantaged in terms of resources, in terms of where the top professors go, and so on and so forth, compared to the historically white universities. Yes.
AUDIENCE: Yeah, I was curious. You talked about the influence of parents, and the older generation, and the effort to have overcome that. But what about the role of media and the imagery that you have?
JONATHAN JANSEN: Oh, my gosh. Don't take me there. I've got some marks on the back to show you.
The media in South Africa, there's these two groups actually. The Afrikaans media is particularly dangerous in South Africa, and the reason is every region, like where I live, there's a small Afrikaans newspaper in Cape Town, there's an Afrikaans newspaper in Johannesburg. It's a different one, but they're all related through a company called Media24, and what they do is to exaggerate the stories about South Africa.
So everything government does-- by the way, I must say sometimes I get the feeling that's the way you guys treat Obama as well. So everything government does is it's incompetent. Now, some of those things are true. Some of the corruption is absolutely true, but when you begin to exaggerate, and there's nothing good happening except the bad stuff, it feeds into racism I think that we need to, as South Africans, need to talk about.
I think the white-- BBB, the rest of the press, the English press-- has sort of two groups. There is the traditional English press, like the Sunday Times, and then there's the black English press, like the Soweton, and so on, and the City Press. And there you'll find something very interesting, and that is an attempt to discover where the line is between legitimate criticism of the state and otherwise. And nowhere was this more evident when the coverage of the presidential penis-- you might have heard of that particular saga-- was at stake. And the editor, Ferial Haffajee, of the City Press actually took down the picture from the website, which was a huge mistake as I told them many times, and as she now realizes.
And so the question that was posed by our most prominent journalist, Justice Malala, to Ferial on the radio. I'll never forget this on television. It was, where's the line between respecting human dignity, in this case, the president and so on, and the right to market anything? And Ferial's answer was classic.
It was, we don't know yet. And that's what we're trying to do is weigh in South Africa-- remember, this is a young democracy-- how do you begin to define that space for legitimate criticism in what is still a very conservative society? Yes, sir.
AUDIENCE: Yeah, I know your profession is on higher education, where, to some extent, people's minds will be set. We're trying to find this [INAUDIBLE] the earliest. What I want to know is, what's going on at elementary or preschool levels? Because for those students, for example, who, summers ago, built a school in [INAUDIBLE], Johannesburg.
JONATHAN JANSEN: Oh.
AUDIENCE: So we were able to be careful in terms of selecting the color of the paint so that when every kid sees himself or herself, in whatever we do it was [? materials ?] of colors and so on. That is the young kid, where this issue of nearness comes perhaps very naturally if then right at that age. So my question is, what's going on at that level?
JONATHAN JANSEN: Yes. Well, first of all, the primary problem we have in our schools, it's not for me race relations. Because remember, 80% of the schools are still black and 20% of the schools are more or less integrated in different ways. Those also happen to be the schools that are lower, upper middle class and functioning well, but 80% of the schools do not function well at all.
They are dysfunctional. The teachers don't show up every day. The unions run riots over their schools. The principals are not always present. There's no rhythm and routine to the timetable.
Those schools preoccupy a lot of our time as a university, by the way, and a lot of my personal time just trying to make those schools work. So the primary problem there from the point of view of parents is, how can I just make sure that my kid does well academically? How can I make sure they get through these 12 years and qualify to go to college or university?
That's the primary problem there. And because of this being a predominantly black country, of course, those schools will remain predominantly black, the 80%. But in addition, those schools are, with few exception, very, very dysfunctional, and that is a major crisis.
One of the reasons black students are so angry is, when they come to university, they don't have either the academic preparation or the capacity in terms of language to be able to do well. And we've got different ways of dealing with it. But to change the country's 29,000 schools, you need a government that understands how serious that problem is.
The problem is every single cabinet minister has their children in those 20% of schools and most of them in private schools. So there isn't-- as I often write, and you can imagine the feedback I get from those in power. There isn't really a deep concern about other people's children. There's a pretense, but there isn't.
And until we get that right-- remember, half a million kids. That's more than half the kids drop out between grades one and twelve, and they drop into gangs and all kinds of dangerous activities. So that's-- I know South Africans don't like the metaphor, I didn't like the metaphor, of the ticking time bomb, but if there was a ticking time bomb, that's it-- getting the schools straight. Yes, ma'am.
AUDIENCE: [INAUDIBLE] conducted a study of all the universities. But if you were to give a sense of what is happening, is this kind of approach something that you can say is happening elsewhere?
JONATHAN JANSEN: No. No, the predominant mode of engaging these issues, if they're engage at all, is through what I call "moral outrage." That every time you pretend you're shocked at the racial incident and then you must put in place a strategy to end it. There isn't a deep, long-- there's just this notion of good guys, and bad guys, and we'll penalize you if you're bad. There isn't any of this thinking.
I now go around to all 23 universes talking about this stuff, not just in racial terms, but in ethnic terms. What does it mean at the University of Limpopo, where there's a very strong sense of some ethnic groups? Now, it sickens me that we still think that way, because part of the struggle was not to think that way, but these are very powerful triggers for conflict in many of our universities.
But there is no attempt-- trust me-- to even begin to think in these directions. It's just nab the racist, put a policy in place, and that's it. It's as crude as that, and you'll see that in the next report coming out as well.
Well, thank you, everyone. Thank you, sir. Over back to you.
FRED LOGEVALL: So before we go--
JONATHAN JANSEN: Yes.
FRED LOGEVALL: --I want to thank you, Professor Jansen. It was so stimulating. I will predict, with a great degree of certainty, that you will never hear another lecture in which C.S. Lewis and a particularly steamy scene in Fatal Attraction are mentioned within a minute or two of one another. But more seriously, I think this concept of nearness that describe and the various manifestations. As a fellow administrator, you've given me a lot to think about, and I thank you for that.
I want to thank all of you for coming. And, again, we look forward to seeing you at future events. Join me now in thanking Professor Jansen.
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Jonathan Jansen, M.S. '87, vice chancellor and rector of the University of the Free State in South Africa, spoke on the role of on higher education in development Oct. 22, 2013 as part of the Einaudi Center's Foreign Policy Distinguished Speaker Series.