Mon | Sep 23, 2019

Staff lament crisis of confidence in new Edna board - PM urged to intervene

Published:Tuesday | September 10, 2019 | 12:24 AMJanet Silvera/Senior Gleaner Writer
Holness
Holness

WESTERN BUREAU:

The Andrew Holness-led Cabinet’s approval of a new board for the beleaguered Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts continues to be embroiled in controversy and a number of stakeholders are urging the prime minister to intervene.

Citing “a crisis of confidence”, the faculty, staff and students have written to Holness, raising concerns about the board’s ability to restore confidence and boost morale at the St Andrew-based institution.

The staff said the “crisis” comes against the background of the retention of 10 members of the old board, including Chairman Marigold Harding, on the new 14-person board announced last week.

No confidence in Harding

Harding, in particular, came under heavy criticism, with the stakeholders telling Holness that they have lost confidence in her ability to lead.

“The Edna Manley College community takes strong issue with the reappointment of Mrs Marigold Harding to the post of chairman of the board of management at the Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts,” they wrote.

“This letter is, therefore, a declaration of no confidence in Harding’s leadership, as well as our objection to those unelected/appointed members who have been called to serve alongside her,” they added, claiming that their objection to the appointments spur from what they view as protocol or policy breaches under the previous board.

“These infringements have adversely affected the college’s operations, public image, and student and staff morale – all exacerbated by the developments of the last few months,” the letter continued.

The stakeholders added that since Golding’s intervention in the sexual harassment scandal, which has rocked the institution since May, neither the chairman nor the appointed board members have had any relationship with the college.

They accused the board of misrepresenting the facts shared with the press and of repeatedly withholding information about the steps being taken by the college administration to deal with the issues.

“How then are the chairman and appointed board members to effectively serve on the management of this institution given this absence, distance, and unfamiliarity with the institution’s work?” they asked.

The staff pointed out that they wished to make it “clear and unambiguous (again) that we feel deep concern, and stand in caring support for any student or staff member who has been a victim of sexual harassment, abuse of power, gender discrimination and/or any other such forms of injustice”.

They are calling on Holness to look into their concerns to ensure that the college embraces the principles of good governance.

The letter also comes against the background of a planned visit by Holness to the institution tomorrow, making him the second sitting prime minister to visit the institution in 40 years. Michael Manley, after whose mother the school is named, was the first to do so.

janet.silvera@gleanerjm.com