UG convocation must go on – unions

In the wake of the postponement of the University of Guyana’s (UG) annual graduation exercise, the two unions there have said that the ceremony must go on with the Committee of Deans adhering to the statutes.

The postponement of the convocation exercise, which was reported in Thursday’s edition of Stabroek News was confirmed by a university press release on Thursday, and in a joint statement condemning the decision, the UG Workers’ Union (UGWU) and the UG Students’ Society (UGSS) stated that it is their belief that “the committee of deans and a few academics with a narrow agenda are using the graduation to press the council for narrow gains that have nothing to do with the future of the University”. It stressed that the “illegal” university council and the graduation of students are unrelated issues.

This newspaper had reported that tension between UG’s Academic Board and the Council over recent occurrences at the campus had resulted in the postponement of the annual exercise indefinitely. UG’s news release on Thursday stated that the Academic Board has requested an urgent meeting with the entire University Council at which “a number of vital issues are to be discussed and hopefully satisfactorily resolved”. These include the appointment of the Vice-Chancellor (VC) and the consequent non-appointment of a Deputy VC, the governance of the University and recent decisions purporting to be in the name of the council, the statement said. It said that after this, the academic board will be able to identify a new date for convocation.

Those issues are said to have caused the friction within the institution and on Thursday the UGWU and UGSS charged that three consecutive times “there has been crass political interference by the Office of the President resulting in the imposition of Dr. James Rose on the University”. Declaring that the burning issue on campus is political interference the organizations called on academics to “denounce this travesty that has destroyed the university” adding that any academic that refuses to do so cannot speak on behalf of their colleagues.

Charging too that the new university council was not properly constituted on October 17 because of political interference, the joint statement said that they cannot accept that because of this 1200 students must be made to have their future jeopardized. Education Minister Shaik Baksh recently reconstituted the university council and at a meeting held to discuss the renewal of Dr. Rose’s contract as VC three representatives of statutory members of the council namely UGWU, UGSS and the Academic Board were barred from sitting in. This had been challenged by UGWU representative Freddie Kissoon who had labelled the decision illegal and dictatorial. Additionally, reports have since surfaced that Rose, whose contract was renewed as VC two weeks ago has not accepted the post due to certain conditionalities that are attached. In the absence of a VC, the graduation exercise cannot go on. The UGWU/UGSS statement said that the statutes empower the Committee of Deans to carry on the functions of the university in the absence of a VC and a DVC.

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