Sun | Jul 15, 2018

Baseless assertions against UTech staff

Published:Tuesday | November 1, 2016 | 12:00 AM


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.