Professor Daizal R. Samad, Director of the University of Guyana’s Berbice Campus (UGBC) has stated that it is very important that the next Vice- Chancellor of the University of Guyana (UG) be one who has national and international experience in the academic arena as well as “true academic quality”.
The Director was speaking recently to Stabroek News. The tertiary institution is currently looking for a new Vice-Chancellor since the position formerly held by Professor Lawrence Carrington became vacant on April 1 this year. Several persons are in the running for the position.
The University has also been plagued with numerous problems with its administration as well as physical structure in recent years. Earlier in the year, there were several strikes and protests for better working conditions, remuneration as well as for the reinstatement of former lecturer, Frederick Kissoon, whose contract was terminated. Protest action has now resumed.
Samad noted that not only academic leadership at the institution is important, but administrative leadership as well— “we don’t have it (administrative leadership) and it is not enough to sit down and complain— we need to do the work”.
“If there is (good) leadership, the leadership, will in turn, alean up and streamline the administrative structure. If we do that, we will have our lecturers doing what they ought to be doing; students learning as they should be learning; systems that measure both and an efficient fiscal operation”.
Speaking on the issue of the university running at a financial loss, he commented that a university is a business unlike any other business, “but it’s a business nonetheless…we waste a lot of money. What money are we generating…not really much and if we’re not generating much, then why not?” he questioned. Government support for the university should be a finite thing. The university needs to find creative ways to be self-sustaining financially.”
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People who function well, he posited, must be rewarded and people not functioning well must “be put aside— it’s tough love! You can’t run a business like that, but we need to think in terms of the university itself as a big thing and the university is only part of what this nation is— it’s a whole attitudinal change that the university is not a thing in and by itself and does not function for itself; it functions for the good of this nation”.
He added “I want UG (Turkeyen and Berbice) to be known for cutting edge research, excellence in teaching and learning, and for leadership in innovation and community action— we’ve gotta be top-notch and we will attract the best and brightest; we will, but it means that you have to find a way to get rid of ‘dead wood’— it’s tough and hard talk”.
Samad said “We need to have a revolution of thought in our nation and it ought to come from higher education; in our context, it must come from the University of Guyana; if it doesn’t come from UG, then UG might as well close its doors because it is not doing what you ought to be doing”.
The Director said that the UG Mission Statement, “is all grand and wonderful but what are we doing in day-to-day terms to fulfill that mission— I don’t know. But what I do know is that several of our lecturers and students at UGBC are walking the walk”.
Shortly, the Tain campus will be officially launching the country’s first state-of-the-art Writing Centre. The Writing Centre, he speculated may be the first of its kind in the country and is fully- computerized, “fully high- speed interconnected; it has projectors and is meant to serve first and foremost, UGBC Students with weak writing skills”.
He added that he is hopeful that persons who are “better writers” will volunteer their time, to look at things like end-of-semester papers, and “show these kids the various weaknesses in their papers and hope they learn not to do it again”. Ongoing workshops will address various issues in writing, too. The writing centre, he noted, will “serve a purpose bigger than simply asking the students to write little essays; it is to get us to say what we mean and mean what we say”.
The Centre has one-of-a-kind seating arrangement to create a comfortable atmosphere that is both stress-free and threat-free.
The writing centre, he believes though is really not an end project, but rather it is the first step for a Centre of Academic Studies (CADS). The campus has plans, too, to bring Communications Studies to the campus. Capital works are being awaited and “I was hoping to have it (the communications studies building) finished by September…and right now our campus is in the process of a massive makeover”. He revealed that the campus is not “falling apart” physically “but we are not going to wait for our roof to collapse and leak before we decide to redo it; I think maintenance is just as important as fixing”.
“A lot of money” he said is going to be spent to improve the fencing at both the Tain and Johns campuses, “to keep out farm animals, and so that our students, lecturers and staff are in a safe environment— security is dreadfully important”.
The campus, too, is also trying to donate computers to the “most disenfranchised and distressed primary schools, such as Sisters’ Primary on the East Bank of Berbice”. The Diaspora, he revealed, is working very closely with the campus. He is very optimistic after having spoken to attorney, Raymond Ally, “and we are trying to negotiate with some Guyanese abroad for an MRI machine for New Amsterdam Hospital”. The process has begun and Minister of Health, Dr Bheri Ramsaran has been informed. Ramsaran has since requested the specifications of the MRI machine.
Additionally, 9000 books will be forthcoming from a donor in Toronto.
The service that the Writing Centre will provide will be expanded to the community and into the secondary schools, especially with the CSEC and CAPE students, who he revealed, will have to pay a nominal fee for the service, “because it will be expensive and we have to be paying people…and hopefully out of this hub called UGBC, will come a general improvement in our language as we write it and hopefully, and we speak it”. He is calling, too, on all the media personnel “to come and be involved in one of the workshops that the lecturers will run, to strengthen, for instance, our pronunciation, our use of diction on television or in the newspapers, so it could have an effect all across the board, really”.
He is very optimistic about the Writing Centre and next week, two UGBC lecturers will be travelling to Turkeyen to make a presentation on the writing centre and “see how we can work collaboratively by learning from each other”.
It all goes to show you that if you’re innovative and imaginative, a bit adventurous, you do things to advance the university and the community. This is the first thrust in forming the Centre of Academic Studies where we look at things like plagiarism, outreach, student advising…it’s a record of all things going on— all disciplines— could move and be centralised in this CADS”. Footnoting, reference, plagiarism are all things that will be dealt with by the CADS.