South
African
Sociological
Association

SASA is committed to a democratic South Africa,

where all enjoy economic, political and social justice
and freedom from all forms of discrimination on the basis of religion, nationality, race and gender.

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Committed to the development of a vibrant social science community in Southern Africa.

Academic Freedom: The case of Prof Glenda Gray.

Statement by South African Sociological Association (SASA) President and Council on the case of Prof Glenda Gray

The SASA council noted with interest and some concern the public controversy involving Professor Glenda Gray, the president of the South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC). In an interview about the Covid-19 Lockdown, she apparently spoke of ‘out of turn’ thereby inviting the disfavour of the Ministry of Health including possible ‘investigation’ by her employer, the SAMRC. Fortunately, the matter has been ‘amicably’ resolved according to statements by the esteemed professor and the SAMRC.

For the record, as the leadership of the South African Sociological Association (SASA), we feel that it is our responsibility to make the following points about this matter:

Academics as cohorts of certificated ‘experts’ in society should be allowed the freedom to express their opinions and engage in robust public discussion and debate. This should be so even if their presumably informed opinions conflict with the stated positions of the government, or of any public or private body or institution. For the government to attempt to place limits on and exert authority over this freedom will have a chilling effect on the core of the academic enterprise. While no freedom can ever be absolute as that might impinge on other freedoms, we believe that good academics are constrained by their conscience, ethical considerations and peer review mechanisms to convey to the public knowledge and information that is honest and accurate. It is in this context that we found the response of the South African government, before the matter was resolved, heavy-handed and unsettling. A democratic and responsible government should wield its power with a light hand.

It is our belief that multiple voices must be allowed to flourish and innumerable ideas be explored for the betterment of society. This should apply to all particularly those who might be vulnerable to sanction by those in power.

By SASA President and Council.


© 2020 SOUTH AFRICAN SOCIOLOGICAL ASSOCIATION