Please permit me the use of your pages to ventilate. Only in Guyana will people bad mouth someone for successfully negotiating a good employment package. Only in Guyana will keen sense of dressing be ridiculed. Only in Guyana the smarts (intelligent) are seen as threats to be defeated. Only in Guyana people envy instead of understudy. These are my thoughts reading what has been happening with Professor Ivelaw Griffith at the University of Guyana (UG).
In the age of Trumpian politics and alternative facts (euphemism for lies) Guyana is fast becoming consumed. Veteran trade unionist Mr. Lincoln Lewis known for his straight-shooting style and consistency is in a fight for his life to defend his uprightness. He is coming up against former lecturer Mr. Frederick Kissoon who is known to be fast and loose with the facts. But I digress.
I have blogged on UG and think it necessary to come to the Letter columns. I need answers and think I speak for many of the alumni of UG. I need answers to questions like-
1. What has Vice Chancellor (VC) Griffith done that so riled up the unions?
2. Is it fair to ask the VC to be evaluated at the end of his contract? If his employment conditions did not include an evaluation competent should the rage be directed at him? Shouldn’t he be credited for agreeing to an evaluation at the end of his contract even though none was there as the beginning?
3. Is it true lecturers are still not marking students’ papers on time and the VC has been trying to put a brake on their delinquency?
4. The VC came to UG with a plan called “Project Renaissance.” How much of this was achieved? The university is 50 years old and has more than its fair share of challenges. Isn’t it a realistic gauge of performance to judge him on his plan?
5. Have lecturers worked with the management team to develop a plan to improve their performance or their interest is only in the VC’s performance?
6. Is it true the university unions can decide who should be appointed VC? I get this impression reading their statements.
7. When last the university unions negotiated a benefits and compensation package for the staff?
8. Could not the unions’ accusations the VC was on a spending spree be proven at the completion of the audit? The Ministry of Education said it was going to do the audit. Why didn’t the unions wait for the findings to prove or disprove wasteful spending? As scholars is this not what they know and taught us?
9. How much does it cost to run a 21st century university of UG’s size? How much is this from students’ fees, government subvention and private grants? Cost includes physical maintenance, salary, providing for the student population, courses, state-of-the-art libraries and classrooms, sanitation supplies, stationery supplies, utility bills, etc.?
10. How much it costs to invest in UG to bring it respectability and improve its image internationally via direct and indirect spending? What did the VC achieve that lifted the image of the university and helped the students that his predecessors did not do or left outstanding?
11. I read that the VC brought millions in investment to UG via new programmes, grant funding, private partnership, exchange programmes, guest lecturers from reputable international university. Isn’t a dollar value being put to this and can a breakdown be provided?
12. The VC has an extensive record of scholarship, achievements and published work. How many UG lecturers have similar accolades? Could they speak up?
13. Is the VC’s vision for the university too progressive for the lectures? Was he way ahead of his time and place in a Third World society, with third-rated lecturers and a third-rated university? Was he too demanding and expecting more from a team who may not have his energy, zeal and interest?
14. What does the Student Society think about the VC and what he has been doing for the university? Do their views matter?
15. What is the opinion of the Council members? Do they agree the VC was not performing, wasting money and his contract should not be renewed?
16. UG is state-owned. It would be good to hear the thoughts of the APNU+AFC government. Can we hear from President David Granger or Minister of Education Nicolette Henry?
17. UG has about 1000 staff, approximately 400 lecturers. Was a scientific survey done to determine the percentage of approval and disapproval of the VC’s job or union leaders Dr. Jewel Thomas and Bruce Haynes speak for the majority?
Answering these questions are important to having an objective take on what is happening at UG. The lecturers who taught me would have expected me to think this way. Another thing before I take my leave. Management is a tiered system. Someone is always the head. Did the UG Council give any thought to this when it appointed a three-man management team to do the work a VC should be doing?