Some 31 lecturers, mainly from the University of Guyana, Turkeyen Campus have withdrawn their services from the Berbice branch over allegations of abuse and disrespect from the campus director, leaving students without instructors.
The lecturers are also complaining about the manner in which a staffer was recently promoted by the Berbice Campus council. Their action can effectively close the campus, which depends on the services of a number of lecturers from the UG Turkeyen campus to carry its academic workload.
Director of the Berbice Campus, Dr Parsram Thakur told Stabroek News yesterday that he will hold a meeting today with his faculty staff at which time they will decide on a way forward. According to Thakur at present they have three options: for the Berbice-based lecturers to double-up on their teaching appointments, hiring new lecturers to fill the vacancies opened by the withdrawal of the Turkeyen lecturers or to ask the students to stay home until they can find lecturers to do the courses.
“I am prepared to sit down and work things out, but we find that a lot of personalities are getting in the way,” Thakur told Stabroek News. The director said that he is prepared to carry a few extra courses, which he has already been doing since the strike by the lecturers last week Friday.
One lecturer told Stabroek News that Thakur uttered words to the effect that the lecturers coming from the Turkeyen campus are “money hawkers” and that they are not there (lecturing at the Berbice Campus) for the job, but for money. The lecturer added that the director made other derogatory statements at different gatherings about this category of lecturers. The lecturer told Stabroek News that they have not taken the matter lightly and as such the Committee of Deans at Turkeyen has since written to the Director, Berbice Campus regarding the issue. According to the lecturer the Committee of Deans in the letter to Thakur pointed out that the lecturers from Turkeyen have provided their services in “good faith” and that they have made great financial and other sacrifices to ensure the viability and delivery of programes being offered at the Berbice Campus. The committee, the lecturer said, noted that it was disappointed at the unsubstantiated, disconcerting and resentful remarks made by the Director.
Thakur, however, said he was not wrong when he said that the lecturers were going to Berbice for money, since many of them had demanded that they be given duty-free concessions to acquire vehicles when they were first asked to lecture at the Tain Campus. The director added that the Turkeyen lecturers who teach at Tain were also receiving some $20,000 more than those stationed in Berbice and this, he said, could be the motivating factor. On the response of the Committee of Deans, Thakur said that the body’s action is unconstitutional, noting that as director of the Berbice Campus he is a member of the committee, yet he was not contacted on the issue before a statement was issued. Thakur said that the strike is being pushed by a few lecturers who had personal grouses with him. He said one of the lecturers wanted his job and as such all manner of things were being done to get rid of him. “This is not the first time they have withdrawn their services, it is not the second time. They always doing it and we will have to find a solution,” Thakur declared.
The affected lecturers are alarmed over the situation saying that such actions will pit academics against each other although they are from two sister campuses.
Further, the lecturers are also concerned about what they termed the unconstitutional promotion of a temporary staffer by the Berbice campus council. The lecturers have alleged that with no regard to procedure and accepted academic standards the person was appointed and promoted.
The protesting lecturers have argued that this aspect of promotion is the function of the Appointments Committee, not the council. Declaring that these actions by the council have exceeded its limits, the lecturers said with immediate effect their services have been withdrawn until further notice. A letter to this effect was seen by this newspaper dated 2007-10-30. Stabroek News visited the Berbice campus over the weekend and saw notices on the bulletin boards informing students that classes for particular courses, MGN110, MTH110, ECN110, have been cancelled until further notice. On a visit to the campus on Saturday there were two lecturers conducting classes. With some courses yet to commence for this semester, which began in September and the lecturers withdrawing their services, students are bracing themselves for tough times ahead unless the dispute is quickly resolved. (Additional reporting by Nigel Williams)