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Was University Of Guyana’s Vice Chancellor Selection Process  Politicized By Last Government?

The University of Guyana's Turkeyen campus. Photo credit: UG Facebook Homepage.

Was University Of Guyana’s Vice Chancellor Selection Process Politicized By Last Government?

Dear Editor: 

Information is coming to light that the appointment of the Chancellor and Vice-Chancellor of University of Guyana (UG) took place under questionable circumstances, during the interim APNU-led administration, when a proper search committee was not established.

The appointments were done in haste.

We have not been informed, as to who were on the committee to screen prospective candidates, and who were the candidates for the first or the second round.

Worse, it is slowly coming to light that the composition of the committee is not reflective of the diversity of the population. It was comprised primarily of members of one ethnicity, and Amerindians, Portuguese, Indians and Chinese did not have any presence, much less fair representation.

This process is not supposed to be secretive, yet it was. The selection of the Chancellor and Vice-Chancellor was supposed to be an open process. But it has been a guarded secret.

Four months later, and it is still a secret, more hidden than the reputed Exxon Mobile contract.

We wonder why.

In any university, in any part of the world, selecting a nominal head (Chancellor) of a university, or the Vice-Chancellor, who manages the day-to-day affairs, is a public process. Parents, staff, students, and other stakeholders are part of the committee.

When there is a national election, the appointment is put off till the voters speak, then the appointment is made. In UG’s case, the process was hustled to get the right person in, before the election. A political party wanted to get its people in key strategic positions.

We found out, after investigations, that Dr. Emanuel Cummings, spouse of the former Minister, was Chair of the committee. And the Permanent Secretary to the Ministry of Education was a key person in the selection process. The Minister of Education and the Ministry itself was accused of ethnic bias.

It is remembered that the Ministry could not find deserving Amerindians and Indians to grant scholarships. That, in and of itself, should have been enough reason not to proceed with any appointment of Chancellor or Vice-Chancellor.

Among the candidates for VC was former Pro Chancellor, Prem Misir, who was eliminated in the first round.

Misir, who is Principal of a branch of the University of Pacific, is sure more qualified than several others.

Among the second-round candidates were Prof. Clement Sankat, the former VC of UWI; Prof. Jaipaul Singh of Lancashire; and  an Afro Guyanese, who lives in Antigua and heads a college, who was another finalist.

We don’t think anyone would be more qualified to run a university than Professors Sankat or Jaipaul. They have administrative experience. They were rejected.

What feature do they and Misir have in common that caused them to be rejected?

Why was a less-academically-qualified person chosen as VC? And why the rush to choose a VC and Chancellor when the country was in the midst of an election? Why couldn’t the university selection committee delay the process till after the election?

It is very unfair to foist this appointment unto President Irfaan Ali.

The selection process was very politicized. We urge President Ali to take steps to revoke both appointments, and redo the process.

We are also informed that Dr. Emanuel, who chaired the selection committee, was promoted to Professor and also appointed as Deputy VC — very rewarding positions. Two deputy VCs were appointed and both are of the same ethnicity.

Shouldn’t there be ethnic balance?

When will there be a deputy VC, of Amerindian, Indian, Chinese or Portuguese background?

The President Irfaan Ali-led government must look into this biased, politicized selection process at UG — and take corrective steps for fair representation.

Yours truly,
Farah Ali and Carl Isaacs
Georgetown, Guyana

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