Oct 08, 2016 News
“The University needs a Vice Chancellor, a Deputy Vice Chancellor and lots of money.” This was the view of former lecturer of the University of Guyana (UG), Mr. Frederick Kissoon.
Kissoon, a Kaieteur News columnist, was at the time vocalising his rejection of UG’s new management team which now sees the University having in place an expanded leadership team.
Kissoon noted that while he believes that the new leadership team, which was proposed by Vice Chancellor Ivelaw Griffith, was intended to be a noble move, it, however, may not have been the most appropriate.
“I believe the Vice Chancellor, as a home grown Guyanese, is different from the last two Vice Chancellors. This is his country, that is his alma mater and I am sure he means well, but it doesn’t mean mistakes cannot be made and I think mistakes have been made,” Kissoon noted.
The leadership changes, which became effective last Saturday (October 1, 2016), entail Dr. Michael Scott, a recent Dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences, being appointed Deputy Vice Chancellor of Academic Engagement.
Within Dr. Scott’s portfolio is oversight for several new units: the Centre for Excellence in Teaching and Learning; the School of Graduate Studies and Research; and the Office of Undergraduate Research.
The latter two, according to information out of UG, will get some initial leadership guidance from the Vice Chancellor himself because of his expertise and experience in those areas. The current Deputy Vice Chancellor of Academics, Dr. Barbara Reynolds, has been reassigned as Deputy Vice Chancellor for Planning and International Engagement, a new entity intended to streamline and extend UG’s international relationships and build new grants, research, relationships with other universities and with international organisations.
With her years of experience in the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) and other international agencies, Dr. Reynolds is expected to facilitate new and dynamic international pursuits.
Dr. Paloma Mohamed, a former Director of the Centre for Communication Studies and a former Dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences, is now occupying the newly created position of Deputy Vice Chancellor of Philanthropy, Alumni and Civic Engagement.
Deputy Vice-Chancellor of Planning and Development, Dr. Elizabeth Ramlal, is now the Executive Director of the Institute of Distance and Continuing Education (IDCE), to lead the realignment of the Institute to strengthen its service delivery across the country and realise it entrepreneurial potential.
On assuming office, Professor Griffith had outlined in his ‘Values and Vision’ statement that capital investment, academic enhancement, economic viability and alumni engagement, are imperatives for the university to undergo a paradigm shift as part of its renaissance. The new leadership order is expected to greatly contribute to the renaissance of the university.
The new administrative team is expected to be further strengthened with the establishment of an Office of Strategic Initiatives as an adjunct to the Office of the Vice Chancellor, to undertake institutional strengthening, project management, and allied services.
The current Programme Officer in the Office of the Vice Chancellor, Ms. Karen Wishart, has been promoted to become the first occupant of the newly established position of Chief of Staff in the Vice-Chancellery.
This promotion coincides with the renaming of the Senior Administrative Group to the Vice-Chancellor’s Cabinet, which include the Deputy Vice Chancellors, Registrar, Bursar, Human Resources Director, Director of the Berbice Campus, the Legal Officer (a new position), the Director of the Office of Strategic Initiatives and the Chief of Staff.
But Kissoon is worried that the new administrative structure is not suitable for the national university which has just over 4,000 students and just about 500 staff. “The University has not got that kind of student and employee population to warrant such a vast outlay of personnel….that by any global standard is highly irregular,” underscored Kissoon.
He continued by pointing out that the state of affairs that exists is that there are six persons doing a job that could be done by two. “You have three Deputy Vice Chancellors, you have an Officer in Charge of Strategic Initiative in the Vice Chancellery and the Vice Chancellor has a Chief of Staff, so that is five plus the Vice Chancellor. When you look at their functions you can curtail those personnel by four,” Kissoon theorised.
In fact he is convinced that some of the new roles that have been handed out should have been left in the direct care of the Vice Chancellor. “The Vice Chancellor and his Deputy could take care of Civic Engagements…When it comes to International Engagements at all universities, that is a job reserved for the Vice Chancellor…
“He is the head of the University, he has a high profile; you can’t go into negotiations with international agencies with a Deputy Vice Chancellor, so you don’t need a Deputy Vice Chancellor for International Engagements,” Kissoon said to qualify his argument.
Kissoon is of the opinion that “between the Vice Chancellor, the Director of Strategic Initiative, the Deputy Vice Chancellor for Academic engagement…those are the three persons you could use. Why then do you need a Chief of Staff in the Vice Chancellery?
“At most universities the Vice Chancellor has his admin officer who doubles as his secretary…I don’t know if these jobs are going to call for more funding but I think they should.”
He posited that if a Dean is promoted to the position of Deputy Vice Chancellor, based on the public sector scale that promoted individual is legally entitled to a pay increase.
Kissoon, however, questioned, “If you create a Director of Strategic Initiative where does this person fit in, in the salary scale?”
He suggested that instead of creating new positions and increasing the leadership team, efforts could have in fact been made to distribute duties to the five existing Deans. “You have a very small university of which the largest faculty is the Faculty of Social Sciences – that is half of the student population.
“The university is not doing a number of programmes; we don’t have a History Degree, we don’t have a Physics Degree. The University is small and the administration has got larger…I think the Vice Chancellor meant well but this leadership team is a mistake,” Kissoon said.
But implementing the leadership team, this publication understands, was prompted by an existing Trevor Hamilton Report. While Kissoon claims he has not seen this Report he noted that if it is true that the Vice Chancellor was guided by it, it should not have been embraced holistically.
“The Vice Chancellor, as the leader of the university, has to take the Hamilton Report and see what is relevant…He has to ‘cut and paste’. Hamilton was here for six weeks and the Vice Chancellor is a Guyanese working at the University. He is more familiar with the nuances and has to make changes based on what he sees for himself,” Kissoon asserted.
In a statement issued by the University, it was pointed out that Professor Griffith in his first three months at the University said, “I am of the strong view that greater levels of effectiveness and efficiency can only be achieved through the immediate re-organisation of the administration of the University through realignment of functions and roles.”
Griffith assumed the position of Vice Chancellor earlier this year and proposed the leadership changes at a recent meeting of the Finance and General Purpose Committee (F&GPC) where it was approved.
The F&GPC is a policy making body of the University second only to the University Council.
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