Faced with a “REP” problem for a protracted period, the University of Guyana [UG] is in desperate need of redemption. The way has already been paved for this renaissance but the problem must be recognised in order for it to be effectively addressed.
Several problems faced by the state university were recently amplified by its Principal and Vice Chancellor, Professor Ivelaw Griffith. “UG has had an REP—Resources, Esteem, and Perspicacity—problem. I am quite mindful of the prescient proposition of Writer and Philosopher, Rabindranath Tagore: ‘You cannot cross the sea simply by standing and staring at the water.’
“Thus, on assuming the Vice-Chancellorship, rather than lament, I launched Project Renaissance, which aims to rebuild UG’s educational and economic enterprise and enable it to become a consequential national and international educational stakeholder,” asserted Professor Griffith.
Professor Griffith’s remarks were made during his inaugural speech after making history as the first Vice Chancellor of the UG to have a coronation ceremony. But Professor Griffith hopes to also make history by revolutionising the national university.
He observed that “this institution’s recent yesterdays have been characterized by neglect and stormy seas, with an interlinked three-dimensional predicament, which revolved around resources, both in relation to acquisition and management; esteem, internal as well as external, and notably in relation to academic credibility and brand; and perspicacity, in that the University had lost its intellectual spunk when it comes to critical inquiry and theoretical and applied research.”
He said that his vision for a renaissance project is both a dreaming and doing project. “Why dream, some have asked, when this University has suffered such neglect and for so long? This Renaissance Bridge Building Project has four main pillars, called imperatives, and six values,” asserted Professor Griffith.
According to the university’s Principal, the first imperative is capital investment, which involves human capital, physical capital, and brand capital. Second to this is academic enhancement, which Professor Griffith said, entails improving instructional credentials, curricula and andragogy [adult education], and introducing new educational programmes and research to address national and regional business, civic, and overall development needs.
He pointed out that the economic viability imperative is the third pillar. This imperative, he said, requires fortifying the major existing revenue streams, that is, government subventions and tuition fees but also expanding the revenue base, through alumni and corporate giving, grants, and merchandising.
The fourth Imperative, Alumni Engagement, entails reaching out to UG graduates within and outside Guyana, celebrating their accomplishments, and inviting them to aid the continued pursuit of our mission and goals.
“As one might suspect, pursuing Project Renaissance has daunting, Herculean elements. It entails facing and fixing, to quote writer James Baldwin, and it involves pursuing new ventures and setting new baselines, some of which are new to UG and to Guyana, although not new to the academy in many parts of the world,” said Professor Griffith.
“Understandably, then, decision-making often has been—and will be—tough. But, as Roy Disney once averred—and correctly so, in my view: ‘It’s not hard to make decisions once you know what your values are,” said Professor Griffith who confidently underscored that “our Renaissance pursuits are guided by six cardinal values: Respect, Integrity, Excellence, Transparency, Inclusion, and Efficiency.”
But such values, according to the Vice Chancellor, cannot be merely platitudinous incantations; they must be lived.
He added, “in relation to excellence, for example, Aristotle reminds us of the importance of habituation: ‘We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit,’ he said. Living these values is particularly important at this period of Guyana’s contemporary history, as our nation has a considerable Respect-deficit and Integrity-challenged profile.
“The onus is on us at the University to aid the alteration of this profile over time,” underscored the Vice Chancellor.
Even as he pointed out that changes introduced at the university have started to yield laudable results, Vice Chancellor Griffith noted that this has not been without challenges and criticisms. He, however, noted that the University will continue to boasts of its success. This, he revealed, will entail the posting of a scorecard to the University’s website for the world to see.
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