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Mixed reactions to Whiteman as interim president at UTech

Published:Monday | May 5, 2014 | 12:00 AM
Burchell Whiteman (right), former minister of education, being conferred with an honorary Doctor of Laws degree by Professor Errol Morrison (left), president of the University of Technology, during the university's graduation ceremony in 2013. Whiteman is to replace Morrison as president of the university. - Ian Allen/Staff Photographer

Jermaine Francis, Staff Reporter

Even as some have thrown their support behind a reported decision to appoint former Education Minister Burchell Whiteman as the acting president of the University of Technology (UTech), the UTech Academic Staff Union (UTASU) says it has yet to be officially informed of the move.

Dr Alfred Sangster, president emeritus of UTech, told The Gleaner last week that Whiteman was experienced enough to heal the fractions that have developed between the university's management and staff.

"I think he has the experience of heading an education institution, he is non-adversarial ... . His personality will, in fact, help to calm things down and bring peace and a sense of calm to the institution," Sangster said.

However, Meredith Williams, secretary of the UTASU, said the staff has not been informed of a possible replacement for the outgoing president, Professor Errol Morrison.

"What we understand is that the matter is not final and the prime minister is to make an announcement. But at the end of the day, we would have preferred someone from inside," Williams said.

He added that the unions have been informed that other names were mentioned for the post, "but his name seemed to have been the most outstanding".

Nevertheless, Williams said, in principle, the unions are not against Whiteman being appointed.

Since September last year, the lecturers and administrative staff at UTech have been at loggerheads with Morrison, who had been serving has president since March 2007, over the governance of the institution.

Special Advisory Committee

Following a series of protests from the unions, the education ministry convened a Special Advisory Committee which recommended, among other things that the Government take immediate steps to search for a new president to replace Morrison.

Sangster said in his discussions with Morrison he told him that he had "spread too far, too thin, perhaps too quickly".

"I said to him, 'I don't think that your management accountability is as good as it ought to be'", Sangster said.

Morrison said he was looking forward to taking on a new challenge when he starts his stint as the head of the National Council on Science and Technology in June.

Morrison, whose time as president at UTech will end February next year, said while he was not able to state definitively that Whiteman would be the interim president, indications are that he will be the one to second him during the transition period.