Professor Jonathan Jansen, now head of the troubled Mangosuthu University of Technology, is worried that the institution has "turned into a prison".
"Universities should be fun places. This place is very sad, people are hurt, it is very unfortunate," he said yesterday.
He was addressing the media for the first time since he was appointed by Education Minister Naledi Pandor to take charge of the administration for the next three months.
Jansen said he was surprised when he discovered that the university employed three different security companies.
"Entering here is like entering a prison instead of a tertiary institution," said Jansen.
He says one of his immediate tasks is study the findings of the independent assessor, Vincent Maphai.
Among others, Maphai's report found that suspended vice chancellor Aaron Ndlovu did not comply with labour relations stipulations.
He will also look at the cases of members of staff who were dismissed. He is keen to establish whether their dismissals fair or not.
He says the institution has a backlog because of resignations by many members of staff, including lecturers, over the years.
"The university is supposed to be a joyful place," Jansen said.
"I intend visiting students where they live, in their homes, and hopefully that would make them feel more positive," he said.
He emphasised that one of his major tasks would be to restore "high morale" among all participants.
Jansen took over the institution's administration following the suspension of Ndlovu in December.
Last week Jansen went on a walkabout on campus, interacting with students and members of the Students Representative Council.
"I have met with the student leadership to explain my expectations of them and to set an atmosphere in which regular and constructive dialogue can take place," he said.
On the university's financial status and about the rumours that the institution was in a state of bankruptcy, Jansen said: "The financial status of the institution is very healthy compared to other previously disadvantaged institutions.
"What happened here was that the money was spent on all the wrong things."