I am responding to gross inaccuracies in a report the Stabroek News carried (Nov 6) based on a statement by the Academic Board. In that statement, it has been reported, the Academic Board said it had no representation in the Search Committee of the University’s Council that was mandated to look for a new University. This is the first fiction. The second one is that Mr. Benjamin from the students’ union and Mr. Kissoon from the workers’ union were made members of the Search Committee without representative status. The bulk of UG lecturers are honest people who want to see a good future for the University. The problem is a conspiratorial few whose agenda is a mixture of politics and race. It is a destructive agenda. It is that conspiratorial clique that sent that statement to the newspapers.
For example, I spoke to several members of the Academic Board who told me that they were not consulted about the contents of what appeared in that document in the name of the Academic Board. One Dean told me he didn’t know about it. Certainly, he should have been asked for his approval. One senior head of a certain department didn’t know about it either. What the Stabroek News carried was the work of a cabal. Poor President Jagdeo knows noting about what plays out at UG and his continuous impositions on UG have definitely helped to destroy that institution.
When the Search Committee was announced, the representatives from the Academic Board, the students’ union and the workers’ union were automatically made members. We had to be made such because it was giving representation to three important stakeholders in the Committee. All of our originating bodies knew we were their representatives in the Search Committee. It is morally reprehensible for that statement, purported to be coming from the Academic Board, to say that the Academic Community did not have a concretized presence in the Search Committee. That person was there and participated fully in the work of the Search Committee. I will not name him but he is a very senior lecturer from the Faculty of Social Sciences. The non-truth by this conspiratorial cabal is just one example of why the wider society disrespects the academic community at UG.
Now for the controversy between the council and certain academics. The union stands above politics and race at UG. We stand for principles. There is a group at UG that have their own agenda. This agenda has nothing to do with the future of UG. The grievances some lecturers have against the council are valid. The union supports those contentions. We differ from this conspiratorial group in that we believe the council has also committed other grievous harms to the university that this narrow group has refused to deal with because it suits their purpose. This is rank opportunism. It is for this reason the union cannot accept the indefinite postponement of the annual graduation because the attitude behind the decision is not principled. Why hold up the graduation because you only want some of your demands met.
Then there is the council. Some of the academics reject the constant interference of the council into the administration of the university but refuse to concede that the biggest headache for the University is the incessant interference from the Office of the President. It does not happen at UWI. These invasions into the autonomy of the council and the wider university ought to capture the attention of the entire academic community. It has given rise to condemnation from all the major stakeholders in Guyana – TUC, PNC, AFC, the private sector among others. How can any academic work at UG and not see how these interventions have destroyed morale at UG?
Then there is the issue of the wider society. Very few people in this country have any respect for UG academics and believe UG is not properly run. Even the President’s point man at IAST who is classified as one of Guyana’s top brains admitted in a letter to the press that he offered his service free of charge and didn’t even receive the courtesy of a reply. Is this the type of leadership President Jagdeo insists he wants at UG? This is the type of leadership some people want at UG because it suits their incestuous intentions. The majority of UG lecturers want to see a better administration.
It was indeed comical to read in that statement from those academics that purport to speak for the Academic Board that a new Vice-Chancellor will need time to develop vision. Where was the vision the past seven years when over that period we had the same Vice-Chancellor? Then there is the Council’s perception that UG is a place where many wrongs take place. I know on several occasions, President Jagdeo has angrily reported to the council that he get complaints all the time of wrong things taking place at UG and he wants the council to investigate. But here is the problem. Some academics only want President Jagdeo to intervene when it suits them. There is a crisis at UG, and the two unions are calling on important actors in civil society to organize a live debate among representatives of the Academic Board, the UGSS and the UGWU so the Guyanese people can hear all the dimensions and ask questions. It is time some academics stop hiding at UG and come out and publicly defend their position in open challenges before the Guyanese people.