Just after 5 pm yesterday, Professor Ivelaw Griffith took his seat as the Tenth Vice-Chancellor (VC) of the University of Guyana (UG) to the tune of trumpet fanfare.
He had just been installed in the position for a second year by Chancellor Nigel Harris as part of an investiture ceremony held in the recently renovated George Walcott Theatre. First installed in June 2016, Griffith’s first year was marked by big ideas, big investments and colourful ceremonies, although he has been accused of being preoccupied with grandeur.
President of the UG Students’ Society Ron Glasgow told those gathered that for the students the year with Griffith has been like eating a creole fish dish – sweet, but filled with pesky bones.
He stated that like most Guyanese, UG students like fish and have enjoyed the new lecture theatre, better Wi-Fi across campus and more comfortable ways of paying tuition.
The increase in tuition, however, was one of those pesky bones with which they have found it difficult to contend.
Glasgow congratulated Griffith on the actions, ambitions and visions of both him and his staff, which have improved the learning experience, but took time to encourage the strengthening of transparency and communication.
He urged the VC to “keep on, keeping on,” an encouragement echoed by Captain Gerry Gouveia, who spoke on behalf of the private sector. According to Gouveia, though persons have questioned Griffith’s audacity in several areas, he holds the support of the private sector.
Dean of the Faculty of Health Sciences Dr Emmanuel Cummings credited Griffith with healing several wounds which proliferated across the university. “We have a much healthier university,” he told those gathered.
Minister of Education Nicolette Henry congratulated Griffith, saying that the government and people of Guyana look forward to his continued contribution to the creation of an innovative education system.
“In the past year, you have brought a drive towards innovation at a time when the university was in danger of stagnation. You have contributed to a sense of augustness and appropriate academic decorum at time when it was increasingly being seen as a place undeserving of respect,” she stated.
Bolstered by this encouragement, the VC committed to the continued implementation of Project Renaissance as a means to bolster the university’s diminished resources, esteem and perspicacity.
“For the University of Guyana to have tomorrows beyond crisis management and beyond avoidance of being practitioners of the science of muddling through, the renaissance bridge-building must be sustained at least for the next three years,” he told those gathered, noting that it was a continuation of the dreaming and doing which saw the university established five decades ago.
Project Renaissance aims to rebuild UG’s educational and economic enterprise and enable it to become a consequential national and international stakeholder.
Throughout its first year, the project has seen several changes being instituted to the organizational structure and operations of UG. Operating under the four pillars of Capital Investment, Academic Enhancement, Economic Viability and Alumni Engagement, this project has birthed the School of Entrepreneurship and Business Innovation, the Turkeyen and Tain Talks, two undergraduate research conferences and the just concluded diaspora engagement conference, among other things.
According to Griffith, the next year will see even more innovation with the establishment of the Renaissance STEAM task force which will be chaired by Drs Norman Monroe and Suresh Narine.
This team will be examining the university’s implementation of its Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math programmes. Also on this year’s agenda is a review of the university’s law program.
This project also has an identified chair in the person of Professor Velma Newton, Regional Project Director of the IMPACT Justice Programme.
Others who delivered remarks at yesterday’s ceremony were Principal of the St Augustine Campus of the University of the West Indies Professor Brian Copeland, President of the University of Liberia Professor Ophelia Weeks, Director of the Trent Centre for Biomaterial Research at Trent University Professor Suresh Narine, President of the Caribbean Development Bank Dr Warren Smith and Lillian Misick of the UG class of 1980.