Base­less as­ser­tions against UTech staff

Jamaica Gleaner - - OPINION & COMMENTARY -

THE ED­I­TOR, Sir: HAV­ING READ the com­ments on the Uni­ver­sity of Tech­nol­ogy Ja­maica (UTech) of­fered by its chan­cel­lor (re­ported in an ar­ti­cle pub­lished in The Gleaner of Oc­to­ber 24, 2016 quot­ing Ed­ward Seaga), I couldn’t help but think on how one’s in­ter­pre­ta­tion of events can do vi­o­lence to the re­al­ity.

That the uni­ver­sity is hav­ing fi­nan­cial trou­ble is an open se­cret, and we’re happy that the chan­cel­lor has lent his voice to mak­ing this pub­lic. His ar­gu­ments on how the in­sti­tu­tion got there, though, re­quired some amount of cre­ativ­ity in their con­struc­tion.

A more ful­some ex­plo­ration of the re­al­ity at UTech, Ja­maica can­not be com­plete without ac­knowl­edg­ing that a great many of its aca­demic staff is at the top of their pro­fes­sion in train­ing and com­pe­tence, and also are pro­fes­sion­ally trained in­struc­tors. The chan­cel­lor has made heavy weather of the rel­a­tively low per­cent­age of PhDs, without any recog­ni­tion of the fact that UTech, Ja­maica’s grad­u­ates are highly re­garded by em­ploy­ers as work-ready on their first day on the job. Will he pre­side at grad­u­a­tion? Why? What should be the only course of ac­tion for him to take?

A more bal­anced ar­gu­ment from the chan­cel­lor would have recog­nised that this is a no­tably suc­cess­ful out­come ac­com­plished un­der what could char­i­ta­bly be de­scribed as sub-op­ti­mal con­di­tions.

In­stead, the ar­ti­cle seemed to be in a rush to blame staff for the “blight” at UTech, Ja­maica. Why use so broad a brush to at­tribute blame?

Staff do not make the strate­gic and op­er­a­tional de­ci­sions that have con­trib­uted to the blight. In­deed, he could have noted, even in pass­ing, that aca­demics have not re­ceived a salary in­crease in six years and con­tinue to pro­duce sought-af­ter grad­u­ates, in­stead of al­leg­ing that “they” want pro­mo­tion and don’t want to work.


Where is the ev­i­dence that staff has con­trib­uted to the blight, are self-seek­ing, and don’t want to work? Where is the ev­i­dence that their unions, which even if they acted in con­cert rep­re­sent a very small vote on the Coun­cil, hin­der the uni­ver­sity’s work? These are un­wor­thy al­le­ga­tions from the chan­cel­lor, es­pe­cially since he pro­vides no ev­i­dence to sup­port them. Was his in­tent to fur­ther de­mor­alise staff?

He, as chan­cel­lor since 2010, and pro-chan­cel­lor be­tween 2008 and 2010, has been well placed to see the weak­nesses in man­age­ment and gov­er­nance that have con­trib­uted to the “blight”. What has he done to ad­dress them, or to bring them to the at­ten­tion of those with au­thor­ity to ad­dress them?

It ap­pears that, at last, there are per­sons on UTech, Ja­maica’s Coun­cil who have seen these weak­nesses and take se­ri­ously their re­spon­si­bil­ity to cor­rect them. We might say, in 2016, what took them so long? No, sir. The staff are not the cause of the blight you re­fer to. They are its vic­tims. JOAN LAWLA ethic­sjoan@ya­

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