The Herald (South Africa)

Students irate after NMU dean resigns

Suggestion that departure of economist Lagardien was forced

- Devon Koen koend@tisoblacks­

STUDENT organisati­on Sasco lambasted Nelson Mandela University yesterday for what it said was the forced resignatio­n of the executive dean of business and economic sciences, Dr Ismail Lagardien.

University spokeswoma­n Zandile Mbabela, however, said Lagardien had resigned of his own volition and the university wished him well.

Economist and activist Lagardien tendered his resignatio­n last week.

His resignatio­n comes on the back of a heated faculty meeting in March in which staff alleged he had used bad language, leading to some people taking offence and laying a complaint.

South African Students Congress western region chairman Bamanye Matiwane said Lagardien’s resignatio­n had been forced and that the organisati­on wanted to know why.

“We know his history and contributi­on to the issue of transforma­tion at the university,” Matiwane said.

“We know he was here advocating for the university to hire more black lecturers and deans.

“We believe staff [in the faculty] said he was racist and too militant.”

Sasco would meet students from the faculty to discuss Lagardien’s relationsh­ip with them.

“We want to know if students were satisfied with him and why he resigned,” Matiwane said.

A fellow staff member, who asked not to be named and who worked closely with Lagardien on various projects, said he fully believed he had been forced to resign. “There are two sides to the story,” he said.

“There is way more to it than the university has put out in its statement, which made me very angry when I heard about it, because it is so far from the truth.”

Lagardien, a former chief strategist and speech-writer for Joe Stiglitz at the World Bank, took up his position at NMU in April last year.

Lagardien said yesterday that he, and faculty staff, had created a strategy for addressing the most-pressing issues in South Africa – and the world – and had set in motion a transforma­tion process which would place the faculty on a firm trajectory towards becoming a leading institutio­n in the country.

“Leaving brings great personal sadness, but I have had to think about my own well-being and future,” he said.

“I have not been in touch with any of my students, and received only the best of wishes from staff.”

Dr Savo Heleta, from NMU’s internatio­nal office, said he was saddened by the resignatio­n of Lagardien and praised him for what he had done in his short time at the university.

“He could have done so much for the university and brought about real change and transforma­tion.”

Mbabela said Lagardien had left of his own accord, and that he had enjoyed wide support from the university staff and student body.

“The university wishes to express its gratitude to Dr Lagardien for his passionate contributi­on to the university, particular­ly with regard to transforma­tion and for placing the faculty on a new trajectory,” she said.

“The university wishes him well with his future endeavours.”

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