Sun | Jul 23, 2017

IOUs from IUC - Staff cries foul, as university struggles to pay but administration promises to fix shortly

Published:Sunday | August 24, 2014 | 8:00 AM
Graduation ceremony of the International University of the Caribbean held at the Jamaica Conference Centre on November 29, 2013. - File
Reverend Dr Maitland Evans
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Ryon
Jones, Staff Reporter

Operations
could be affected at the International University of the Caribbean (IUC)
for tomorrow's start of the new school year, due to the institution's
inability to fully pay some lecturers and other
staff.

The Sunday Gleaner has
learnt that the institution has failed to pay millions of dollars to
staff, with individual lecturers claiming to be owed thousands of
dollars for their services.

"They keep owing and it
keeps piling up, and they pay a little and then more add on to it, and
this has been going on for more than three years," alleged a lecturer at
the Santa Cruz, St Elizabeth, campus of the
university.

"They used to pay promptly, but for about
two to three years now, we have found that they are not paying promptly
or they are not paying everything; they keep owing. You will teach two
to three subjects and they will pay you for one," said the lecturer, who
asked that her name be withheld.

She said despite the
inconsistent payments, she and some of her colleagues have a strong
desire to help the students, and this is their reason for having
persisted with lecturing at the institution, but they are now getting
fed up.

According to some staff at the university,
which was founded by the United Church in Jamaica and the Cayman
Islands, the spotty payments started in 2011 shortly after the
institution acquired the old PEMCO Hotel in Montego Bay, St James, to
house its campus in that city.

"The president has
purchased this big hotel down in Montego Bay for a campus. So it seems
like all of the money is going into the campus itself; like as soon as
they collect the fees, they are trying to pay the mortgage," said Judith
Shaw, who works in the administrative department at the Mandeville
campus.

"The university seems to be going through a
financial crisis, and what they are doing is still employing lecturers
under the guise that they will be paid at the end of the semester,"
charged Shaw.

"At this minute, millions are owed to
these lecturers and a lot of complaints have been put in. They are not
paying their lecturers and they are not paying their employees, and they
are not really communicating the way they should," added
Shaw.

In a correspondence to the staff on June 30, the
university's administration apologised for the non-payment of salaries,
which had been due four days earlier.

The letter read
in part: "Thank you for the patience and understanding that
you have exercised during this difficult period for all of us. We wish
to, again, apologise for the severe inconvenience that the late salary
payment has caused in our lives ... . If speaking with your creditors
will help them to understand the situation, we are very willing and able
to give them a call to explain."

TRYING
TIMES

The IUC's president, the Reverend Dr Maitland
Evans, while acknowledging that the university is going through some
trying times, contends that they are on top of the issue and everything
is in place for classes to begin tomorrow.

"There is
no crisis here; there is a challenge that we are working out," said
Evans. "Everything is set for school and we are excited about the
beginning of the new academic year."

But Shaw does not
share Evans' enthusiasm, as she contends that the timetable for the
South Middlesex division was yet to be posted due to difficulties being
experienced by the institution to secure
lecturers.

"We still have not completed the list of
lecturers at this time, so I don't know if over the course of the week
they are going to finish off the timetable, but it hasn't been posted as
yet for the South Middlesex region, which it should have been already,"
Shaw revealed last Thursday.

Evans has blamed the
10-year-old institution's woes on the non-payment of fees by students,
with 25 per cent of the more than 3,000 students enrolled last school
term said to have dropped out due to their inability to
pay.

"We are a fees-driven university. We are very
dependent on the fees that are paid by students. The amount that we
gather from other sources is not significant. So when you have a
situation where there is a contraction of the economy in the way that it
is, students don't pay, and it does create a
challenge.

"It is the first time in the nearly 30
years in the history of the colleges and the universities that this
issue has arisen in that way. It is the last couple of months of the
year, the worst tamarind season we have seen in a long time," said
Evans.

Still, he maintained: "We are at the end of
that process. We are working through all of those and we expect that by
the middle of September, we would have cleared everything
(debts).

"It is not just the fact that we have the
money doing something else with it. Between March and June, we paid $40
million in lecturers' fees. We did not cover everybody and we have put
the others on a schedule."

THREATENING LEGAL
ACTION

But one lecturer, who wished to remain
anonymous, stated that he has not been compensated for the past three
semesters and is not sure if he will continue into the new academic
year.

"They said that they are having difficulties
making payments and they would sort it out, but it has been going on for
so long. I don't know about others, but I have not been paid for the
past three semesters," shared the lecturer, who is based in
Mandeville.

"It is getting more and more difficult to
see when [payment will be made], as they are not even answering calls
and explaining anything anymore; you just can't get anybody to tell you
anything."

Despite having severed ties with the
university last year, Alvin Lawson, who lectured at both the Denbigh,
Clarendon, and Mandeville, Manchester, campuses, is yet to be paid more
than $200,000, which he says is owed to him.

"I was
asked to come on board in September of last year, and I happily went on
board because I felt that this was an institution that was actually
doing work in the name of the Church. But to my surprise, they weren't
carrying out the principles of the Church at all," charged
Lawson.

"They attempted to give me some money a few
weeks ago, and the cheque that I got caused me great embarrassment. They
gave me a cheque which, when I went to the bank, I found out was
stale-dated back to 2013. My legal counsel is preparing to bring legal
action against them," declared
Lawson.

•Name
changed.

ryon.jones@gleanerjm.com