UTech begins search for new president
Erica Virtue, Senior Gleaner Writer
A search team established by the Council of the University of Technology (UTech) has been mandated to find a replacement for outgoing President Professor Errol Morrison who will officially leave office in February 2015.
Education Minister Ronald Thwaites told The Sunday Gleaner that as far as he is aware, the team is not limited to a local search and would be searching overseas.
"A team has been struck to search for a new president and a renewed model, which was planned from before. But UTech carries on its business and so we are anxiously waiting for the issues to be resolved and for it to gradually develop into a strong research and technical university," said Thwaites.
UTech has been embroiled in a series of controversy for sometime as various bodies within the university had very public differences with the leadership of Professor Morrison.
The education ministry eventually stepped in and set up a committee to probe allegations of mismanagement and evaluate the academic and administrative climate at UTech.
In March, the committee returned a host of recommendations, including that Morrison, who was appointed president in 2007, should be replaced.
"We are anxious for the university to become a leading science technology engineering and mathematics university. UTech is currently engaged in the seven-year evaluation of its programmes and governance. This is a mandatory evaluation," said Thwaites.
The view has long been held by some graduates and other academics that UTech should return to its core focus of being a top polytechnic university and not compete with the University of the West Indies.
The four-member committee's findings detailed an institution flouting government guidelines; making unapproved appointments, spending without proper accounting, and distrust among its staff.
The committee also noted that too many issues which became contentious could have been amicably settled if the university had a strong council.
The Council is the supreme university body and has legal responsibility for all appointments and promotions and for the maintenance of standards.
Meanwhile, Thwaites has heaped praises on Ambassador Burchell Whiteman - the former education minister who has taken temporary charge of the leadership of UTech.
According to Thwaites, Whiteman has managed to calm the storm waters which threatened to engulf lecturers, non-academic staff and students at UTech.
FAR FROM CALM
But Christopher Spencer, president of the university's administrative staff association, said although the university was not in the media as often, things are far from calm there.
"We are waiting to see some action. Mr Whiteman has been here a quarter of a year and we have not seen not one thing done on any of the actionable items that were recommended by the Ministry of Education itself. Not a thing has been done," declared Spencer.
"The Ministry of Education has, from March of this year, the three reports from the Ministry of Finance, and Mr Whiteman also has access to them since he has been here. And these reports are even more specific and pointed, and they could pick stuff out and start doing them," added Spencer.
"So I don't care about the ambassador's demeanour. I care about UTech."