UG Council clears ‘sex-talking’ lecturer of allegations
- students, union protest ‘flawed’ investigations
Lecturer at the University of Guyana, Evan Persaud, has been cleared of sex-talk charges and other improper conduct allegations, and can resume duties, the institution’s highest decision-making body decided yesterday.
However, the decision was immediately met with a staged protest from a number of students and criticisms from the university’s workers’ union with accusations of a flawed investigation and conflict of interest being leveled.
Around 20 students had filed complaints against the lecturer for improper behaviour.
Persaud was suspended for over a year from the university and several of students, some of whom are on scholarships from mining companies, are dead set against his return, fearing victimization.
The UG Council in June had cleared Persaud but then sent a report of a Special Committee to its lawyers, Cameron and Shepherd, for advice.
But the advice from lawyers issued mid last month left more questions than answers with UG being advised to either set up another investigating committee or find the allegations against the lecturer not proven.
“Firstly, we believe the report of the first committee was sufficient to allow the (UG) Council to conclude that there was reasonable cause to believe that Mr. Persaud may be guilty of grave misconduct.
“Secondly, for the reasons stated above, we do not believe that the Special Committee fulfilled its’ mandate in accordance with Statute 25.”
But the lawyers also found that the conclusion of the hearings of the Special Committee was flawed and not reflective of a fair and just process.
“The Special Committee has a mandate under Statute 25 to investigate whether there was any basis to find Mr. Persaud was guilty of misconduct and in so doing was supposed to give him meaningful opportunity to be heard. It failed in both aspects.”
According to Cameron and Shepherd, in its letter to UG’s Registrar, Vincent Alexander, it was clear that the finding of the Special Committee represented an acceptable standard of the administration of justice, quasi-judicial or otherwise.
“The University may either, in rejecting the report of the Special Committee, conclude the matter by finding that the charges against Mr. Persaud have not been proved or it may, if it wishes constitute another special committee under Statute 25, but it is not obliged to do so.”
However, the UG Council in its meeting Friday did not exercise its option of constituting another investigating committee.
Yesterday, UG Pro-Chancellor, Prem Misir, who sits on the Council, refused to comment while Registrar, Vincent Alexander, was unavailable.
Conflict of Interests
However, UG Workers Union (UGWU) representative, Freddie Kissoon, a lecturer who also sits on the UG Council, yesterday again raised questions on the makeup of the Special Committee which he said was heavily made up of PPP/C supporters.
Since Persaud is a strong PPP/C supporter, the entire investigation has raised further questions on the issues of conflict of interest.
Contacted yesterday on the issue, Kissoon speaking for the union, noted that as a matter of principle, he is unable to discuss the deliberations of the UG Council in public.
According to the official, the UGWU position on the Evan Persaud matter has been very clear.
“The composition of the (Special) Committee violates in the most repugnant manner the sacred principle of conflict of interest.”
According to Kissoon, at least three persons on the five-member Special Committee are strong PPP/C supporters.
“There were all selected by Pro-Chancellor, Prem Misir, who is known PPP/C supporter. The union is of the position that Special Committee did not carry out its mandate and the two UG commissioners failed to carry out their mandate to being absent for almost ninety percent of the hearings.”
Kissoon maintains that the whole process was a masquerade and has further damaged the image of UG in the eyes of the nation
“In conclusion, the UGWU believes that an independent commission of inquiry should be enacted.”
Asked yesterday on the advice of UG’s lawyers on the Persaud issue, Kissoon again pointed to the impropriety of publicly discussing Council’s decisions but told Kaieteur News that the lawyer’s assessment allows the University to reopen the process but the Council does not want to do that.
He noted that he has already discussed the Cameron and Shepherd submission to the Union.
He reiterated that it is the union’s position that the advice from Cameron and Shepherd clearly allow UG to retry Evan Persaud under an independent Committee.
With one of the main partners of Cameron and Shepherd, Ralph Ramkarran, an executive member of the PPP/C, the issue of a possible conflict of interest was raised with Kissoon.
“I would prefer to adhere to the principles of conflict of interest and given that Mr. Ramkarran is the senior partner of Cameron and Shepherd, they should have recused the law firm from pontificating on the legal dimensions.”
Sitting on the Special Committee, which investigated Persaud, were Megayla Austin, of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs; Sean Richmond of the Guyana Revenue Authority; Dr. Thomas Singh of UG; Dr. Kissoon of GuySuCo; and Barbara Thomas-Holder also of UG.
The UG administration, in June last year, had launched a two-person inquiry into allegations made by students of the Faculty of Technology that Persaud would use sexually-oriented remarks in class and even on one occasion conducted unauthorised exams in a city hotel.
The inquiry found the lecturer guilty of misconduct and recommended that he be fired.
The report was handed over to the UG Council for disciplinary actions to be taken. However, Persaud appealed and the Council then appointed a five-person Special Committee which reviewed the matter.
In June, the UG Council which comprised high ranking officials of the UG, Government officials and other stakeholders, met and the report of the Special Committee was discussed.
The report was sent to Cameron and Shepherd for legal advice.
According to the report of the Special Committee which Kaieteur News managed to acquire, the committee found that UG statutes were “grossly inadequate” to deal with the many issues that arose during the execution of its “already vague mandate”.
“The report said that there was a “lack of clear and indisputable evidence to properly investigate the charge.”
These include the discoveries that minutes of the interviews conducted with students who had accused Persaud of misconduct during the preliminary inquiry, were not signed.
Despite requests, an alleged letter improperly sent by the lecturer to Prometheus Resources (Guyana) Inc. was not tendered as evidence and only an audio recording was provided.
“The Special Committee found that while it was shocked and appalled by Mr Persaud’s apparent behaviour, and while the evidence examined suggested wrongdoing on the part of Mr Persaud, that evidence clearly did not meet the standards of proof (such as signed report) that would be required to establish the charges if gross misconduct in a court of law.”
The report noted that this would prove “grossly embarrassing” to UG if the matter is challenged in court.
Yesterday, several students waved placards at Turkeyen campus to protest the Persaud matter, among other issues.