Unions at the University of Guyana (UG) have strongly objected to the manner in which the government is composing the institution’s 26-member council.
In a letter to Education Minister Nicolette Henry dated February 13th, the University of Guyana Senior Staff Association (UGSSA) and the University of Guyana Workers’ Union (UGWU), called on Cabinet “to allow organizations to nominate representatives who will truly speak for them and on behalf of the people of Guyana, whom the University serves.”
According to the unions the previous Minister of Education, Dr Rupert Roopnaraine allowed organisations to select their representatives for the Council in 2015 and they had hoped that a similar approach would be adopted in forming this new Council.
Instead, statements recently made by Minister of State Joseph Harmon and reported in the media have led the unions to “state in the strongest possible terms [their] objection to the method being used by the Cabinet to form the next University of Guyana Council.”
Harmon had told a post Cabinet Press Briefing last Thursday that Cabinet discussed the composition of the Council at its last meeting but has still to identify two members. He explained that there were concerns about identifying suitable representation of women’s interest and of indigenous interest with the relevant subject ministers having been asked to make recommendations.
This, the unions argue, is a retrograde step that does not augur well for the proposed governance reform process currently underway within the University which requires the support of the government.
“That process proposes minimizing the government’s role in the appointment of the UG Council,” they stated, adding that “We have long said that the University’s progress is being severely hampered by the politicization of its Council. We are not alone in this observation: several consultants have come to the same conclusion. The country’s leading tertiary institution has for too long been a political football. We need persons of integrity and fair-mindedness to serve on our Council – persons who will not place loyalty to any political party before the needs of the institution and the country.”
President of UGWU, Bruce Haynes in an invited comment told Stabroek News that the unions find the Ministry’s silence unnerving.
“We don’t know what process was used by the Minister. We have been informed of nothing there is a lot of silence,” he noted.
Haynes referred to three letters previously sent to the Ministry on this matter all of which remain unanswered.
The unions wrote on 28th August 2017, then on 29th September, 2017 to Permanent Secretary Vibert Welch and on January 2nd 2018 to Minister Henry. There has been no acknowledgement of receipt from either party.
Additionally phone calls were made on 18th and 19th September, 2017 and personal visits were also made to the Ministry of Education in October 2017 to enquire about the appointment of the new council.
While not responding to the unions’ concerns, the Ministry has reached out to their Council Nominee Dr Jewel Thomas asking as recently as last week asking that she submit her Curriculum Vitae for perusal.
Yesterday, the unions once again reached out calling on Henry to convey to her “colleagues [their] request that they rethink their approach to the formation of the Council, and return to their 2015 stance. We call on them to allow organizations to nominate representatives who will truly speak for them and on behalf of the people of Guyana, whom the University serves.”
The University of Guyana Act dictates that the Council shall consist of 26 members, including the Chancellor, Pro Chancellor, and Principal and Vice Chancellors. The other members, according to the Act, must be drawn as follows: One person to be nominated by the Committee of Deans; one person to be nominated by the Academic Board; one from the Guild of Graduates; one from the Student Society, one from the University of Guyana Workers’ Union; one from the Ministry of Education and Cultural Development; one from the Ministry of Finance; one from the political party in office; one from the minority leader; four from Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) which in the opinion of the Minister best represents the interest of women, farmers, Amerindians and business; one from the Guyana Trades Union Congress; three by the Minister to contribute in the field of medicine and law; six persons identified by the Chancellor and of which one shall be from each of the Association of Universities and Colleges in Canada, American University of State Colleges and Universities, Committee for International Cooperation and Higher Education of the United Kingdom and the University of the West Indies (UWI).