A time will come when party hacks will no longer have control of UG
FEBRUARY 5, 2012 | BY KNEWS | FILED UNDER LETTERS
I respond to a statement by Ms. Chandrapal that my age and lack of research were the reasons why my service at UG was terminated.
May I remind readers, it was ended not by a submission by the UG administrators and/or the academic community but by five UG Councilors all of whom are PPP members and three of which are PPP Members of Parliament.
It has to be both a travesty and a tragedy that someone like Indra Chandarpal could sit on a University Council and make statements on the ability of academics when Ms. Chandarpal has no background in higher education.
I honestly don’t know if Ms. Chandarpal has the required CXCs to have entered UG as a student. I am not aware Mrs Chandarpal has CXC exposure. I may be wrong but it is for her to tell us about her educational background. Ms. Chandarpal, as far as I know, has no record in the field of academia, scholarship or education.
She has never been involved in any governmental project that involves academia or higher education but she is on the Council of the country’s only University commenting on highly trained academics who work at UG for almost three decades.
By now, most citizens not only in Guyana but in the world would know that retirement at sixty is going out in most countries and there isn’t one university in the world where the retirement age is sixty. But Mrs. Chandarpal wouldn’t know these things.
UG’s current Vice Chancellor is seventy. The Bursar is over sixty five. There are over twenty five UG academics at the moment who are over sixty.
No person can be that idiotic to say that in Guyana, an academic should retire at sixty. Interesting to note that both Mr. and Mrs. Chandarpal are older than me. Mr. Navin Chandarpal is sixty five and is a public servant who has been recently employed
Mrs. Chandarpal’s statement provides further evidence that the academics are never ever going to sit silent and allow the present structure of the UG Council to continue.
It is clear from Mrs. Chandarpal’s utterance that the Council decided my fate, not the academic community. This nonsense and travesty will stop at UG and the academics are inflexible in their demands that the UG Council will no longer be allowed to usurp the function of the academics at UG
It is not for five PPP Councilors to decide the type of contracts UG academics get; that is the work of the various UG academic committees.
Which section of the University told Mrs. Chandarpal that I did not do research? Which section of the University told Mrs. Chandarpal that a sixty year old cannot be retained at UG? It is clear from Mrs. Chandarpal’s observation that Council determines the state of affairs at UG. That must come to an end.
There is agreement by both APNU and the AFC that the University of Guyana Act will be amended to remove the more than nine Councilors that are appointed by the Government of Guyana and who are always members of the ruling party
Members of Operation Rescue UG have spoken to the leadership of both the APNU and AFC. I have spoken to Mr. Granger and most of the AFC leaders on the UG fiasco.
Mr. Ramjatttan and Kathy Hughes, two AFC Parliamentarians, were in the picket line. The role of the UG Council will change if not tomorrow, or next month or next year, it will change. There will no longer be a place for party hacks that have total control of the University
One of the demands of Operation Rescue UG that has not been made public is that UG academics must have a say in the search for a new Vice-Chancellor. Whenever the dialogue starts, as suggested by Roger Luncheon, the committee has one demand which is unchanging – the UG Council’s structure has to be changed.
By STABROEK STAFF | LETTERS | THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 2, 2012
The report ‘Kissoon didn’t qualify for contract‘ in SN of Feb 1 raises some new questions while leaving old ones unanswered.
The old questions are:
Why would the university allow an incompetent lecturer to remain for more than 2 decades?
How could it be a sensible financial decision to terminate a contract immediately, in effect paying a lecturer not to teach, when the council could quietly decide not to renew the contract at its legal end?
The new questions the article raises are:
Why has the council not formally cleared the air on the termination of Mr Kissoon’s contract if it is true that this, as with all other decisions was consensual?
Does consensus at council deliberations mean that the positions of the PPP members carry the day?
Having read much of the coverage relating to the de facto firing of Mr Kissoon, a reasonable conclusion is that the decision was political, and there is much to be said for Dr Henry Jeffrey’s analysis in the same issue of SN that Mr Kissoon was fired to show who has the power. I would add that the intent, besides plain malice, is to send out a warning to those who might be prepared to speak out in ways critical of the presidential party. I suggest that it is past time for the party representation type of council to be changed.
This is no way to run a university or a country.
Karen de Souza
UG Students Society President denies voting against Freddie Kissoon
Written by Demerara Waves
Wednesday, 01 February 2012 19:30
The President of the University of Guyana Students Society, Duane Edwards on Wednesday bluntly denied that he supported the termination of Political Science Lecturer, Freddie Kissoon’s contract.
Four Council members, who represent the Peoples Progressive Party Civic (PPPC), have said that none of the 14 council members supported Kissoon’s retention.
But in a statement, Edwards called the claim by Indra Chandrapal, Nirmal Rekha, Gail Teixeira and Bibi Shadick “absurd” and almost false and mischievous.
“I now conclude by saying categorically that I argued for the retention of Mr. Kissoon based on the interest of the constituency I represent,” said Edwards.
Kissoon’s contract termination, the payment of three months salary in lieu as well as no offer of future employment is being used a launching pad by workers and students organisations on the Turkeyen campus to press for a number of demands. They include hygienic conditions, no political interference, improved laboratories and the hiring rather than the firing of competent lecturers.
Daily lunchtime protests and marches are being held on the campus and the organisations- University of Guyana Workers Union, Senior Staff Association and the Workers Union plan to escalate ‘Operation Rescue UG’ into a strike in another 72 hours if no action is taken.
Following is the full text of the statement by the President of the Students Society.
Recently four PPP/C UG Council members have seen it necessary to speak publicly about what transpired at the last Council meeting. In relation to my participation in the process as the representative of the UGSS, the press release is promoting as an ‘incontrovertible truth’ what in fact borders on gross misrepresentation of facts that smacks of mischief-making. Apart from coming close to falsity and mischievousness, the press release which claims that ‘not one single member of the 14 council members present at that meeting, including the [University of Guyana Students Society]… supported [Mr. Kissoon’s] retention’ is a reduction to absurdity of what exactly transpired at the meeting. It is inconceivable that in less than two weeks before the beginning of the second semester that the academic staff and I would be party to a decision the consequences of which could be inconveniencing to students and burdensome to the faculty. When the version of the unfolding of the Council meeting presented by the press release is juxtaposed with the fact that the matter had to be transferred from the Appointments Committee, a body dominated by academics, in order to secure the intended outcome then the claim that no academic staff supported Kissoon’s retention becomes even more absurd.
I wish to further state that my voice was among those voices of reason that highlighted the totally irrational and inconsiderate nature of terminating a contract in the middle of the academic year.
Representing the interest of the students, I pointed out to the Council members the extant situation as it relates to the shortages of lecturers for key courses and the fact that lecturers are expected to fetch extra courses to make up for these shortages which consequently result in reduced quality instruction and engagement and lack of program preparation.
I now conclude by saying categorically that I argued for the retention of Mr. Kissoon based on the interest of the constituency I represent.
Gail Teixeira a Canadian of Convenience, meddling in University of Guyana affairs, sparks a massive protest
Committee plans to shut down UG
By Latoya Giles
Classes at the University of Guyana are expected to be suspended until further notice as plans are apace for mass protest today at the Turkeyen Campus. Yesterday the leading figures in “Operation Rescue UG” which comprises students, workers and academics, spoke to a packed audience in the George Walcott Lecture Theatre yesterday, outlining a series of issues which they are fighting for.
The purpose of the meeting was to urge the UG community to come out in support of the closing down of the University until the demands of staff and students are met. These demands include contract renewal for Freddie Kissoon and Vincent Alexander.
Duane Edwards, President of the students’ union, told the gathering that so far the students at UG have been disappointing in that they have failed to protest the appalling conditions at UG. He urged them that the time is now right to fix all the wrongs that have been done to them.
Edwards called on them to look to their conscience and be morally forthright in fighting for the rights of Freddie Kissoon and Vincent Alexander at the Turkeyen campus.
Kaieteur News columnist Freddie Kissoon explained that throughout history, the young has changed civilization for the better. He said that the young have the passion and purpose and as such he called on the youths to participate in changing UG by protesting.
Kissoon exclaimed to loud applauses; “We are closing down this university.” Describing what happened on Friday, the opposition raised his dismissal with Jagdeo and his team in the tripartite talks, and he remarked that the Government’s nonsense must be stopped. He explained that President Ramotar told the opposition that they cannot ask him for answer because it was a UG matter and they must ask UG Councilors.
Kissoon said that when Councilor Gail Texieira was called upon for ban explanation, she refused, only to say that she cannot divulge UG Council deliberations because they are confidential. Kissoon further stated that when Texeira argued for his contract termination when asked what will happen to the students, she said that was a problem for UG administration to fix.
“Gail Teixeira, said that she holds a Canadian passport while her two daughters were educated at York University,” Kissoon said.
Senior academic Dr. Patsy Francis, called on students to let their voices be heard on the deteriorating situation at UG. She pointed to the holes in the roof of the George Walcott Lecture Theatre and told them that they have to sit in classes while it rains on their heads.
She remarked that she recently came back from Barbados where her salary was far higher than what she got at UG.
Meanwhile, the University of Guyana Senior Staff Association (UGSSA), the University of Guyana Students Society (UGSS) and the University of Guyana Workers Union (UGWU) in a press statement yesterday condemned the recent decision of the University Council to terminate the full time, temporary contracts of several university lecturers.
The termination of Mr. Frederick Kissoon’s contract with the specific caveat that he must not be reemployed in any capacity (either full time, part time or temporary) is particularly troubling as it has all the appearances of political victimization for his outspoken criticisms of successive PPP Governments.
They said that they reject the interference of the Council in the academic affairs of the University and insist that departments and faculties are best positioned to determine staffing needs. We will therefore not allow the Council to determine who departments employ as academic staff. We demand that the termination letters be withdrawn and all lecturers concerned be allowed to fulfill their original contracts.
Apart from the violation of proper labour procedures, the terminations of these seasoned, qualified academics will also have deleterious effects on students who are already faced with insufficient and inadequately trained lecturers.
UGWU, UGSSA and UGSS are also deeply concerned about the lack of transparency, lack of accountability and apparent bias displayed by government representatives on the University Council in arriving at the decision to advertise the position of Registrar.
Notwithstanding University regulations that require the advertisement of the positions of Director of Berbice Campus and Bursar, the Council employed a performance-based mechanism to recently reappoint Mr. Daizal Samad as Director of Berbice Campus and Mr. John Seeram as Bursar.
The motivation therefore behind the decision to advertise the position of Registrar, held by prominent opposition member Vincent Alexander, is viewed with suspicion. The Council is cautioned that the disparate treatment of the three cases has understandably roused fears of ethnic and political discrimination and we urge the Council to function in accordance with principles of transparency and parity. Our position is that either all the positions are advertised then filled or all are filled on the basis of a performance evaluation. Anything less is unacceptable and will be resisted.
UGWU, UGSSA and UGSS are also greatly concerned about the working conditions for all categories of staff and quality of education received by students. Salaries and emoluments are grossly inadequate, way below comparable levels at regional universities and in the public and private sectors in Guyana.
Offices lack basic equipment and the physical facilities used to instruct students, particularly in the science and technical faculties are not only inadequate but also dangerous and place the lives of staff and students in jeopardy.
Staff members and students are demotivated and demoralized. “We are therefore concerned that the World Bank negotiated loan to rehabilitate those faculties involved in Science and Technology has not yet been signed.”
It is inconceivable that monies available for the enhancement of student’s welfare are in danger of being lost to the institution and we urge the Government to immediately move the process forward so that the University can be enhanced.
UGSSA, UGSS and UGWU are prepared to immediate take all legal and industrial measures to restore academic and administrative order at the University of Guyana. “While we intend to fully resist political interference and victimization, we are prepared to work with all stakeholders, including the Government, the Administration and the Council to secure better working conditions for all categories of staff and better quality education for our students.”
Written by realTalk
Saturday, 28 January 2012 11:03
In Guyana it often seems as if the more things seem to change the more they remain the same. In a time gone by when Guyana was once governed by the PNC, the PPP then in opposition, vigorously protested that which it believed were the excesses of the PNC government. Many of the harsh protests were felt in the sugar industry, where strikes were used as a crippling political weapon, while arson in the cane fields was reserved for the more dastardly acts of sabotage. Sadly the myopic vision of the PPP could not see that it would live to inherit an industry it systematically wounded.
Today Guyana is faced with one of the most corrupt governments in the Anglophone Caribbean, but yet there is a deafening silence from those who once protested the naked abuse of power under the PNC.
In Guyanese politics, there exists a hypocrisy that reveals the blatantly dishonest sides of many politicians, as they pretend to function in the best interest of the Guyanese people. The most recent example of this is seen in the way the PPP led university council members dealt with popular anti-government columnist and political scientist, Mr. Freddie Kissoon.
Upon returning to Guyana from Tanzania in 1974, Dr. Walter Rodney applied to the University of Guyana (UG) to be employed as a lecturer. He was never employed. Many believed that because of his revolutionary political stance against the political leadership of the day, Dr. Rodney was blatantly refused employment. This son of the soil and academic extraordinaire was being refused gainful employment in his own country because the government of the day was not enamored by his vibrant revolutionary political thinking.
The opposition party in 1974 was the PPP. It engaged in very loud protests both at home in Guyana and in the international hallways of power, to register their disapproval of this obscene abuse. PPP leaders in 1974 thought that the PNC government was dictatorial in its handling of Dr. Rodney’s right to work in Guyana, and made sure that its displeasure was felt and understood by all.
Guyana is now governed by the PPP. In 2012, this same PPP that was in fierce opposition of the firing of Dr. Rodney under the PNC rule in the 70s, today can have its members collectively vote to terminate the employment of one of its harshest critics. Sadly there is no decent member of the PPP who would openly renounce this kind of vindictive action taken in this “democratic” Guyana.
Supporters of the PPP must justify their silence on this most vicious action taken against their Guyanese brother who once fought side by side with their leaders against the “tyranny” of the PNC era. In a society where most of its brightest minds migrate to more democratic, economic and politically stable jurisdictions, UG cannot afford to lose a healthy and fertile mind in Freddie Kissoon.
If the PPP leadership truly wants to demonstrate that it is serious about growth and development, ethics and good governance, then it should reinstate Mr. Kissoon immediately! The PPP must learn to identify and reside on moral high ground. It cannot allow itself to continue pursuing a confrontational political agenda which sees it as the big bad political bully.
Guyana truly needs a mature political society where politicians can agree to disagree and coexist without the fear of victimization. Citizens must be allowed to freely express their opinions and not worry about political retribution. The PPP likes to refer constantly to Guyana as a democracy. However, in a democracy dissenting voices are not penalized and victimized. They are encouraged and respected.
Today it is Freddie Kissoon. Tomorrow it could be you or a member of your family! Guyanese must stand up and demand an end to political victimization.
Written by Denis Scott Chabrol
Friday, 27 January 2012 18:17
Outgoing Vice Chancellor of the University of Guyana (UG), Professor Lawrence Carrington on Friday identified an archaic governance structure and woefully insufficient cash, including low salaries, as major stumbling blocks to improving the nation’s premier tertiary institution.
Addressing a well-attended staff meeting in the George Walcott Lecture Theatre, he said the major problem confronting conditions of service and staffing policy is how to attract more qualified staff and pay them competitive emoluments.
“If all we can offer a professor at the top of our scales is the equivalent of US$1,725, we will not be able to compete with a Caribbean competitor offering the equivalent if US$8,429 ay a comparable level. So our planning has to shift the matter of emoluments to the top of the agenda,” he said.
The Trinidad and Tobago-born Vice Chancellor feared that “We will not be able to justify the label of university if all we can show in a teaching and research staff” of 359 academics are nine professors and 17 senior lecturers. Only two departments are headed by two temporary professors and only four by senior lecturers, one of whom is temporary.
He said he did not care about fees but instead he cared about the resources available to work with.
Related issues, he identified are the terms and conditions of service, confidence in the system of appraisal, systems of incentives, rewards and recognition.
Noting that there are “more proposals than concrete achievements,” he said an initial one has seen the knocking out the bottom tier of salary scales and adding another at the top, resulting in an upward shift of everyone. However, he said, that proposal would only yield fatter pay packets if more money is provided. “It has been stalled though in the face of severe budgetary handicaps but it can be revived as part of a more widely conceived review of the salary scales,” he said.
Data from University of the West Indies (UWI) campuses, Professor Carrington said, are available to be considered for crafting new salary proposals.
He urged staff members to take advantage of UG-managed credit line to purchase computers at significantly lower prices. And he announced that duty-free concessions for vehicles would soon become available to the wider university community.
Professor Carrington announced that a “substantial” grant has been approved by the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) to hire a consulting firm to review UG’s regulatory framework to improve its operations.
“The governance structure of the university is archaic…Our statutes, rules, regulations, procedures and policies belong to an era long past and cannot be left to clutter the 21st century,” he added. Negotiations are expected to begin shortly with the successful bidder.
The review, the Vice Chancellor assured, would address grouses, shortcomings, structural inadequacies, financial regulations if staff members play an active part. “It will happen only if you all make concerted effort, not merely to collaborate with the investigative processes but even more importantly to press our higher committees to make changes that come from the recommendations of the review,” he said.’
Professor Carrington reasoned that UG’s governance structure- with a number of back-linkages to centralized authority- was instituted during a different era and it is no longer relevant.
Though he did not address the termination of Political Science lecturer, Freddie Kissoon’s contract by UG’s Council, he noted that the Appointments Committee at UWI did not include politicians. That, he said, could inhibit efficiency and decision-making based on the best interest of the institution.
“What that does is that it allows you to focus on the academic issues related to the appointment rather than have intrusion of political issues,” he said to loud applause.
Pointing to Guyana’s political history, he noted that the country operates a very centralized governmental structure with a strong top-down component that is unmatched in the rest of the Caribbean
“It does involve a number of serious challenges to an institution that is purportedly autonomous because it is created by an Act of Parliament,” he said.
“I don’t think that one should attribute personal ill-will to the people who are exercising authority,” he added.
He noted that his own appointment was never properly advertised and so had always insisted that all official correspondence referred to him as ad interim (a.i.)
UG Registrar could be next on the firing line
Written by Denis Scott Chabrol
Wednesday, 25 January 2012
The University of Guyana’s Council decision for the position of Registrar to be advertised is being viewed with suspicion in some quarters as a move to get rid of incumbent, Vincent Alexander.
Well-placed sources note that the employment contracts of the Director of the Berbice Campus, Prof Daizal Samad and the Bursar, John Seeram were renewed last year although the positions had not been advertised.
Alexander’s contract is due to expire in April and the Council has decided that the post of Registrar should be advertised in another two weeks. He is free to apply.
Concerns have been already raised at the level of the Council about Alexander’s approach to his work- a signal, the source said, that the council might be setting the stage to find a replacement.
Alexander’s name was recently in the spotlight as the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) Commissioner who ensured that accurate results of the November 28 general elections were delivered. An earlier tally had given the governing party a one-seat majority which it subsequently lost when Alexander uncovered the error.
Similarly, the source told Demerara Waves Online News (www.demwaves.com) that Political Scientist, Freddie Kissoon’s contract has been terminated because of concerns about the quality of his work and alleged inappropriate classroom conduct. Kissoon has insisted that he is qualified, competent and conducted the requisite research.
Kissoon has been a strident critic of the Peoples Progressive Party Civic (PPPC) administration in his Kaieteur News newspaper columns and on the election campaign trail for the Alliance For Change (AFC). A libel case brought by then President Bharrat Jagdeo against Kissoon had also provided some unfavourable political fodder in the run-up to the polls.
Demerara Waves Online News (www.demwaves.com ) was told Vice Chancellor, Lawrence Carrington had made out a case for Alexander’s contract to be renewed but that was rejected by the council. Chancellor, Professor Compton Bourne, the sources said, disagreed and insisted that his support for contract renewal be recorded.
Vice Chancellor Carrington has also notified the council that he would not be seeking a renewal of his contract but would be willing to stay on until a replacement is found.
The Council, however, rejected Carrington’s offer and said that Deputy Vice Chancellor Dr Marilyn Cox should act as Vice Chancellor.