Chem Eng Lecturer placed on medical leave after disturbing Facebook posts

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By Tamutswa Mahari

This article is exclusive to the Online Edition 7 of VARSITY.

 

TW: This article may include Triggering Content

 

On the 14 th of August 2018, Chemical Engineering lecturer Arthur Mabentsela was suspended from teaching all Chemical Engineering classes following an uproar from students over a number of disturbing Facebook posts from his personal account. The posts contained content alluding to the lecturer’s experience dealing with depression, his criticisms of the “#MenAreTrash” movement and derogatory terms towards women. He stated that, “when I was depressed I had thoughts of raping my own 2yr old (sic). I wanted to kill her. I saw nothing in her. There was no love.” His posts received negative reactions from UCT students and the general public.

Screenshot of Mabentsela’s Facebook status

Following numerous complaints from students in the department, the Dean of Engineering and the Built Environment (EBE) sent an email to Engineering students at 16:00 on the 14 th of August. The email noted the department’s acknowledgement of the urgency of the matter, and advised students that, “Management has already met with the staff member and a formal process to investigate the matter has begun.” The UCT Communications and Marketing Department followed up this email with one that emphasised that the Facebook posts are not in alignment with UCT’s values.

On the 16th of August at 13:00, DASO held a protest outside the Chemical Engineering Building, during the pre-suspension meeting. DASO presented a memorandum of demand, calling for the immediate termination of Mabentsela’s contract with the EBE department. In response, the EBE Department noted that Mabentsela has the right to due process, in accordance with the university’s human resources policy and labour legislation.

VARSITY interviewed students who were in Mabentsela’s Second Year Chemical Engineering class. One student, who has chosen to remain anonymous said, “I feel one of the worst parts about him is his inability to empathise. He always tried making people understand life [from] his perspective and from his experience, but in total disregard for the experiences of others.” Mabentsela had made many students feel uncomfortable in lectures by what has been described as ‘inappropriate’ behaviour.

Mabentsela has been placed on a compulsory leave of absence on medical grounds, following the pre-suspension meeting.

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