Academic Board wants meeting with full UG council on ‘disturbing’ events

Amid a deepening rift that has seen the postponement of the annual convocation the University of Guyana’s Academic Board has called for a meeting with the full university council to iron out what it says are gravely disturbing events such as the erosion of the authority of the Vice-Chancellor (VC).

Among the other issues raised by the academics were the appointment of the Vice-Chancellor; the appointment and promotion of a lecturer to the Division of Education at the Berbice Campus; the removal of the bursar from the jurisdiction of the Vice-Chancellor; the alleged abuse of commuting lecturers by the Berbice Campus Director and the search committee that was set up to name a Vice-Chancellor.

The Academic Board has declined to sit as a Board of Examiners until the issues are resolved and therefore the grades for graduating students cannot be finalized.

Referring to the terms associated with the Vice-Chancellor’s appointment as inimical to the best interests of the university, the board said a proposed one-year contract with all leave taken within the period of the contract is restrictive, unproductive, non-developmental and a direct contributing factor to the continued and accelerated instability at UG.

“There is little virtue in a Vice-Chancellor returning to office only to vacate it again in a few short months. A principal needs time and space to contribute to vision, direction and stability; and no proper search process can put a worthy new replacement in those short months”, the board observed.

Since his controversial re-appointment as Vice-Chancellor (VC) just over two weeks ago, Dr. James Rose is still to accept the post. Reports had surfaced that the council had attached conditionalities to the position.

The Academic Board said it also found it surprising that an activity of the weight and importance of a search for the VC had been in progress for nearly one year without any reference to the academic board or the academic community.

The board said it was inconceivable that the search committee had no representative placed there by or with the approval of the university community. It noted that if Frederick Kissoon and Jason Benjamin are representatives, it is to its profound dissatisfaction since such representation was without consultation.

Further, the board said it finds it impractical that a search committee expects to complete such lengthy and important work in less than a year, adding that more time is needed as when the one-year contract offered for a Vice-Chancellor at present expires, the university will be thrown into instability again.

With respect to the Director of the Berbice campus, the board said, there are allegations that he insulted Turkeyen lecturers by asserting that there is a refusal to appoint staff at Berbice because the Turkeyen staff want to commute to lecture in Berbice for the financial rewards; that the members at Turkeyen are opposed to the Berbice campus and never wanted it to exist; that their only interest is in the monetary gains and that too much money is spent on commuting lecturers.

The board pointed out that UG as a whole, has a difficulty in attracting and retaining staff and the situation is worse at Berbice, which has lost its senior academics and repeated advertisements yield very few suitable recruits. It stated that the Berbice staff component of 18 in 4 academic divisions is incapable of running the programmes there, and without commuting lecturers they would have to close.

Great sacrifice

“Lecturers commute at great sacrifice of time, energy and cost. Crossing the Berbice River without priority benefit is a harassment and loss of man-hours, which staff has to endure out of an interest in university service. The contractual allowances have not changed since they were fixed in the year 2000 despite more than 100 percent increases in petrol and other costs”, the board noted.

According to the board, the hourly rates at the Berbice campus are lower than those paid to part-time staff at Turkeyen and cost the university far less than the cost of full-time staff at Berbice. The board said the Director at Berbice and the council need reminding that without the approval, work, support and committed interest of the Vice-Chancellor, the Academic Board and the staff based at Turkeyen, the Berbice campus would not have been established and maintained as part of UG.

The board said that after brief protests at the manner in which the new campus was publicly announced in 1999, the board immediately set about its proper construction, adding that Dr. Rose, Dr. Dev Rawana and Tota Mangar were instrumental in the site being completed.

Thirty-one lecturers at Tain have withdrawn their services over the Campus Director’s remarks.

On the issue of the appointment of a lecturer to the Division of Education at the Tain Campus, the board stated its profound difficulty with the appointment, his promotion to senior lecturer and him being assigned two coursers per semester, saying that such action purported to be taken by the council is unconstitutional, procedurally improper, unreasonable and in bad faith. It added that the lecturer is ineligible for appointment and does not meet the criteria for promotion. The board said the assignment of courses is the function of the Academic Faculty, and not of the Council, pointing out that there are several problematic implications arising from the council doing this and assigning 240 hours where the strict minimum for each lecturer is 360 hours.

Further, the board said that reasons need to be given for important and far-reaching amendments to the statutes such as the removal of the Bursar and Internal Auditor from the Vice-Chancellor’s authority.

It said that any such and any other, major changes in the Acts and Statutes, in structure and governance of the institution cannot take place without the involvement and engagement of the Administration and academic community. The academics said they were astonished that such major amendments can be executed at a meeting at which the issues were not items on the agenda, there was no paper or documentation submitted no prior discussions and no reasons supplied.

Additionally, the board said the personal attack on the Personnel Officer at the meeting of council members was unwarranted, unjustified and unsupported by any properly documented evidence, adding that it is unbecoming for those purporting to be members of the university’s highest decision-making body.

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