Imbroglio at UG symptomatic of profound organisational malaise that needs addressing

Dear Editor,

Too many citizens, its graduates and their colleagues, current and prospective students, of the University of Guyana, must wonder at the turbulence in which it appears to be caught, when, even from a distance, we hear the drumbeats of a fundamental controversy, of discontent, about its management style and outcomes.

For those of us unfamiliar with its organisation structure, there is justification for apprehension about the stability of the organisational arrangements, and the attendant decision-making processes.

The confrontations between different levels and interests, as reported, projects an image of confused behaviours that are unbecoming of this national academic institution – which, instead of the abrasive clash of personalities, should be seen as setting standards for disciplined argumentation.

From public reports of the dispute, it is difficult not to perceive the UG Council as being the highest level of the decision-making structure – an obvious leadership role.

From some accounts however, the Council is perceived to be unable to discharge its responsibilities with the disciplined and sapiential authority expected of it. This is compounded by the substantive absence of trust that appears to exist between Council and unions, and perhaps amongst the former’s memberships.

Meanwhile, one cannot help but wonder as to what extent such management defects are impacting on the student population. Do the latter have a say in how they are being managed?

For example, when students observe the confused thinking regarding the basic issue of Terminal Leave and payment therefor, they must wonder about the technical capacity contained in the membership of the Council.

Meanwhile, in the flurry of exchanges, there appears to be more than a little hesitation about the form and process of performance evaluation. It would be interesting, to identify the author/s of any performance evaluation form/s that exist, the applicability to various levels of staff (or departments) and of course, the relevant authority and responsibility for the final evaluation.

There is need to clarify, for the public’s understanding, whether or not the process has been consistently applied to all performers, including the Vice-Chancellor, moreso throughout the latter’s period of stewardship.

Normally, the very fact of contract employment would demand agreed periodic performance review, and not (simplistically) only towards the period of completion of the contract. In other words, any satisfaction or dissatisfaction should be communicated by either party, along the way.

The present imbroglio would appear to suggest that all the parties concerned are unfamiliar with what is the normal, disciplined performance evaluation process. The behaviours are indeed indicative of the need for the performance of the Council itself to be evaluated.

The implicators would suggest that there are wider dimensions of management that should also be subject to evaluation. For, in the final analysis, the current contention is not about individual actors, but more fundamentally, about instituting disciplined management processes and systems in an organisation whose responsibility is to set standards of behaviour for respective generations of students to uphold.

The current disconnection may well be symptomatic of a more profound organisational malaise that begs to be very comprehensively addressed. 

Incidentally, there needs to be a fundamental clarification about that aspect of compensation management which deals with paid leave, or more specifically, payment in lieu of leave.

With particular reference to terminal leave, it becomes a contradiction in terms that the departing employee would ‘benefit from payment in lieu’, moreso at the end of the contract period.

The exception, however, would apply in the case where termination is a result of disciplinary action initiated by the employer.

That this principle in compensation might historically be observed in the breach obviously does not make the latter practice right.

It becomes more derisible therefore, when the departing employee applies for this putative benefit.

Hopefully, the relevant decision-makers in the governance structure will pay heed.

Yours faithfully

E.B. John

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