We the undersigned hereby write this letter of support for Vice Chancellor Ivelaw Griffith as he deals with personal, misleading and scurrilous attacks of his stewardship of the University of Guyana.
First, we should state that each of us has spent many decades in academia, in faculty and many senior academic administrative positions at some major universities in the United States. We are personal and professional colleagues of Dr Griffith, and we have followed his professional career over the years and his assumption of the leadership of the University of Guyana, his beloved alma mater. We have worked directly with Dr Griffith during his tenure to assist him in the transformation of UG. Any objective observer would be honest in describing the changes that have taken place at UG under his leadership as being outstanding, if not phenomenal.
Dr Griffith is embarking on a bold, ambitious and gigantic task of rebuilding and repositioning the University of Guyana. He is focusing his energies on ensuring that UG plays its rightful role as a major resource and force for social and economic change in Guyana. The establishment of the School of Entrepreneurship and Business Innovation (SEBI) is an example of this strategic direction. Two of us have had first-hand involvement in this project. He was able to restore accreditation for the School of Medicine, which lapsed for several years. He has launched several initiatives to enhance the intellectual climate and culture of the university through efforts such as the Turkeyen and Tain Talks; creation of the Undergraduate Research Programme; launching of the UG press; promotion of the arts; and restoration of the Walter Rodney Chair.
Concomitant with these initiatives is an effort to upgrade and strengthen the institution’s infrastructure which was in dire need of rehabilitation. This is reflected in the completion of the Agriculture and Forestry expansion; opening of the Tain Library and the SEBI complex; and breaking ground for a Math and Science building at Turkeyen. He has provided salary increases to UG staff totaling more than G$117 million. Additionally, he has introduced the practice of external fund raising to support the university’s operations and programmes. For example, he received US$250,000 for the Nand Persaud Soil Testing Lab at Tain; US$500,000 to support Engineering and Technology; US$500,000 in cash and in-kind support from Huawei, among other significant contributions. These are just a sample of his many accomplishments.
It is disconcerting that the criticisms of Dr Griffith fail to acknowledge these accomplishments. Dr Aubrey Bonnett co-authored an article on “Leading Large Systems” in which he addressed the issue of change and the inherent and natural tendency to resist change efforts. What is echoed in the criticisms of Dr Griffith is the fear of change. While the status quo is comfortable, we believe that for UG to evolve and grow and become the top notch institution it is capable of becoming, transformational leadership is imperative. It is our contention that Dr Ivelaw Griffith’s vision, energy, integrity and love for his institution and country make him the right leader at the right time to effectuate a renaissance for the University of Guyana.
Dr Aubrey Bonnett, Professor Emeritus and Former Provost, State University of New York, Westbury
Dr Edward Davis, Professor & Christine McEachern Smith, Chair and Former Dean of Business, Clark Atlanta University
Dr Patrick R Liverpool, Retired Provost and VP for Academic Affairs, University of Maryland Eastern Shore