Incompetency on the part of a senior academic official within the University of Guyana has resulted in the tertiary institution losing a Master’s programme. This disclosure was made by Vice Chancellor of the University, Professor Jacob Opadeyi.
During a recent press conference where he sought to defend moves to have Heads of Departments be nominated rather than merely be elected by fellow members of the University fraternity, he said that this move was premised on a decision to better reflect the existing Statute of the University.
He pointed out that “there is nothing in the Statutes that is not in the existing one.”
He however said that the newest development within the University to be noted is the recall of a Dean. According to the VC, “Where a Dean is not performing, you cannot allow that person to just continue on…and we have cases like that in this University.”
Alluding specifically to the case which resulted in the University losing the Master’s programme, Opadeyi said that a lecturer managing the programme was not performing and “nobody could touch the person until when that person’s term is finished and the University lost the Master’s programme because of that.”
He explained that in the current Statute of the University, the Vice Chancellor appoints the Dean based on the nomination of the Faculty Board and that has not changed. “What has changed is that it is not going to be by elections process…” Professor Opadeyi asserted.
He explained that the election system could have shortcomings if, for example, 60 per cent of department members vote for a particular person to function in the capacity of Head of Department while 40 per cent vote dissimilarly.
According to Professor Opadeyi it is more than likely that the elected individual would show his/her allegiance to those who voted in his favour and opt to ignore those who didn’t vote favourably.
“No organisation has a way where people elect who is Director (and) elect who is the Permanent Secretary…We have no say on those matters, but our system allows for the nomination among those persons and this makes them accountable to the VC,” said Professor Opadeyi.
But the unions representing the University workers – the UG Senior Staff Association and University of Guyana Workers’ Union – are adamant that the VC has in fact amended the statutes of the University and employment conditions.
They are insisting that this decision was made “without any or very minimal input from the very academic community, these changes are purported to benefit.”
They said while the original statute (relating to the appointment of Deans) reads, “The Dean of each Faculty shall be appointed by the Principal and Vice-Chancellor on the nomination of the Board of that Faculty from among the members of the Faculty eligible to hold office,” the amendment reads, “The Dean of each Faculty shall be appointed by the Principal and Vice-Chancellor from among the eligible members of the Faculty, after he would have consulted with the Board of the specific faculty.”
The unions believe that the amendment is unnecessary and potentially injurious to the University. They are concerned that the process of fundamentally changing the academic orientation of the University is being done silently and “one might be tempted to say clandestinely – no one knew that the amendment was on the table for consideration, and the document was submitted to council members a mere two days prior to meeting.”
With this amendment, the unions believe that the current, and any subsequent VC, will now be responsible for identifying and appointing the Deputy Vice Chancellor, the Deans and Heads of Departments – a situation where all those who hold senior academic appointments will be beholden/accountable to one individual.
“With the Council dominated by partisan political appointees, the long term implications of this amendment are even more disturbing and do not bode well for the autonomy and independence of the University,” the union contended.
“There are several revisions that would complement the amendment proposed by the VC– including autonomy for faculties and the deans having control over faculties’ finances. These however have not been proposed,” outlined a statement from the unions.
Moreover, the unions have observed that under the amendment, deans can be recalled for non-performance although no process governing recall of deans was proposed. “
This will also presumably be at the will of one individual – the VC,” the unions have noted.
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