Some basic things to ensure the efficient management of the University of Guyana [UG] have been neglected for so many years that some people have accepted them as the norm.
This was the assertion of Vice Chancellor of the national university, Professor Ivelaw Griffith.
“There are some things for the management; for the efficiency of the economics and operations [that] we have neglected for years, so much so that people think it’s normal.
It is a university that has been so accustomed to managing on a shoe-string budget that people think that anytime you do a little, you are being profligate.”
The Vice Chancellor’s remarks were forthcoming in response to concerns about allegations that his appointment of a number of senior officials at the national university has resulted in the institution becoming ‘top heavy’.
The University last year released information to the effect that on August 22, 2016, the Finance and General Purpose Committee (F&GPC) – the second highest policy-making body after the Council – approved a proposal by the Vice Chancellor Griffith to comprehensively restructure the university’s leadership.
This move, it was revealed, was designed to create greater levels of efficiency and effectiveness and set the stage for innovation in academic and non-academic areas. The changes, which became effective on October 1, 2016, entailed having Dr Michael Scott, the immediate past Dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences, become Deputy Vice- Chancellor (DVC) of Academic Engagement.
The former DVC of Academics, Dr Barbara Reynolds, was named DVC for Planning and International Engagement, a new entity intended to streamline and extend UG’s international relationships and build new grant, research, and other relationships with other universities and with international organizations.
Dr Paloma Mohamed, a former Director for the Centre for Communication Studies and a former Dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences, now occupies the newly-created position of DVC of Philanthropy, Alumni and Civic Engagement (PACE), which has the mandate to enhance UG’s fund-raising, rebranding, alumni relationships, and public interchange, all of which are said to be crucial to the University’s renaissance.
Added to this, the new administrative team was expected to be strengthened with the establishment of an Office of Strategic Initiatives in the Vice Chancellery, to undertake institutional strengthening, project management, and allied services.
Appointed to head this area is Dr. Fitzgerald Yaw, Consultant on Governance, Sustainability, and Economic Development, who has worked across the Americas and the Caribbean.
Added to this, Ms Karen Wishart, who was the Programme Officer in the Office of the Vice-Chancellor, was promoted to the first Chief of Staff in the Vice-Chancellery.
This promotion was said to coincide with the renaming of the Senior Administrative Group to the Vice- Chancellor’s Cabinet, which includes the DVCs, Registrar, Bursar, Human Resources Director, Director of the Berbice Campus, the Legal Officer—another new position—the Director of the Office of Strategic Initiatives, and the Chief of Staff.
But there have been numerous concerns voiced that the size of the university does not warrant the magnitude of appointments.
Vice Chancellor Griffith, however, made it clear that while the proposal was his to present, it certainly wasn’t suddenly conjured up upon his appointment as the principal of the university.
He explained that the University over the years benefited from a number of assessment studies intended to help improve its operation.
Among the most recent, was one completed by Hamilton Associates in 2012. The assessment in question, Professor Griffith said, not only recognised that the university was neglected in terms of its human capital, but went on to outline that it did not have sufficient lecturers or administrators for that matter.
He underscored that the one of the things that the Hamilton Report highlighted is that “the university is too big and part of why it has not done well is that it is running on a shoe-string budget, both on the lecturers’ side and on the administrative side.”
Part of the recommendation to help address the shortcomings of the University that is detailed in the Report is the appointment of at least four Deputy Vice Chancellors in addition to the Vice Chancellor.
But according to Professor Griffith, although he saw the need for the recommended measures to be implemented, “I said we can’t afford four [but] let’s move from one to three.” In fact, he noted that among the neglected human resource area of the university is the lack of a Civil Engineer, an Attorney and even a Chief Accountant.
“Partly because of the low salaries at this university, both on the teaching and administrative sides, we have had difficulty recruiting people,” said Professor Griffith, as he related that the recommendation for an augmented staff did not even taken into consideration the university’s current 8,000-plus student population.
Moreover, Professor Griffith has said, “what I have begun to do, and I make no apologies for doing this, is to try to right-size both the teaching staff and the administrative staff.”
“How are we going to get grants if we don’t have people to write them? How do you get the alumni to give back if you don’t have the mechanisms? How do you get the corporations to give, if you don’t have people who will wine and dine them and follow up with them?” questioned the Vice Chancellor as he added, “There is a lot of vacuous, misinformed commentary about big spending.”
The Vice Chancellor also made it clear that “I am going to always make the right decisions for the right reasons, irrespective of the criticisms, because sometimes the people don’t know the facts…So I would say to anyone the documents are there.”
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