FIX­ING UTECH Seaga raises con­cern about role of staff unions on coun­cil

Jamaica Gleaner - - SOMETHING EXTRA - An­dré Poyser Staff Re­porter an­dre.poyser@glean­

EVEN WHILE mak­ing it clear that his role as chan­cel­lor at the Univer­sity of Tech­nol­ogy (UTech) is purely cer­e­mo­nial, Ed­ward Seaga has de­cided to break his si­lence on some of the chal­lenges fac­ing the na­tional univer­sity.

“The es­tab­lish­ment of UTech gave the right to all the unions to have a seat on the coun­cil, so you have about four dif­fer­ent staff unions on the coun­cil and a cou­ple of staff mem­bers who link up with the unions be­cause they want to fight for get­ting pro­mo­tion for them­selves,” he told The Gleaner.

Ac­cord­ing to Seaga, the progress of the univer­sity has been blighted be­cause of the at­ti­tude of the staff and lead­er­ship at the in­sti­tu­tion.

“A lot of the dif­fi­cul­ties come from the fact that ev­ery­body there wants pro­mo­tion, but they don’t want to do the work ... and what is there now just can’t con­tinue to go on,” he said.

The UTech chan­cel­lor ar­gued that the small num­ber of per­sons on the teach­ing staff with ter­mi­nal de­grees is an ex­is­ten­tial prob­lem for the in­sti­tu­tion, and has, in large part, been per­pet­u­ated by the ac­tion of the unions.

“I know the short­com­ings of the staff, but the unions have been stri­dent and not al­ways ra­tio­nal,” he added.

The stri­dency of the staff unions has been played out in the lack of ap­point­ment of a univer­sity pres­i­dent two years after the de­par­ture of Pro­fes­sor Er­rol Mor­ri­son, who served in the post for seven years.

Pro­fes­sor Ishenkumba Kahwa, of the Univer­sity of the West Indies, was tipped to take up the post, but sources within the Min­istry of Ed­u­ca­tion have said that his ap­point­ment was blocked by the staff unions through their mem­ber­ship on the coun­cil. Pro­fes­sor Colin Gyles has been serv­ing as act­ing pres­i­dent.

The unions also fea­tured heav­ily in the de­par­ture of Mor­ri­son after he sought to im­prove the num­ber of per­sons with ter­mi­nal de­grees at the univer­sity.

“We had started to go out and look for those who were will­ing to come and join a new thrust, but those who were al­ready there, in short or­der, just got jeal­ous and thought that it was a way of marginal­is­ing them,” Mor­ri­son told The Gleaner.

“But it was aimed at bring­ing ev­ery­body up to stan­dard, but they saw it dif­fer­ently, and the unions got in­volved and things went down­hill from there. I wasn’t will­ing to let things re­main as they were be­cause if you are tak­ing the place in­ter­na­tional, then you have to come with some ac­cred­i­ta­tion and peo­ple with you of in­ter­na­tional stand­ing, and that is the thrust that was be­ing made.”

He added: “I think they mis­read it com­pletely, think­ing we were try­ing to marginalise them, but we were try­ing to pull them up. But so be it. There are many vi­sion­ar­ies that have been side­lined, and I don’t mind go­ing down with that group.”

Mor­ri­son has called for UTech’s univer­sity coun­cil to be re­struc­tured. “That coun­cil needs some of the minds such as the ones the prime min­is­ter has on his eco­nomic growth coun­cil so we can now be­gin to look at aca­demic growth and the pro­fes­sional out­put of the univer­sity,” he said.

The staff unions at UTech have said they will re­spond to ques­tions posed by The Gleaner at a later date.


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