Sun | Oct 1, 2023

Economist Densil Williams confirmed new UWI Mona principal

Published:Thursday | June 1, 2023 | 10:29 PM
The UWI said Professor Williams has built a career in business and academia for over 22 years. -File photo

Professor Densil Williams has been confirmed as the new principal of the Mona campus of The University of the West Indies (UWI), weeks after Jamaica delayed the process over its alleged 'discomfort' with the choice.

The Jamaican economist will start working on August 1, replacing marine biologist Professor Dale Webber who opted not to seek a renewal of his five-year contract and will return to teaching at the Jamaica-based campus. 

A university statement Thursday evening confirmed Gleaner reports that Jamaica requested more time to finalise its position. 

"At its last meeting on April 26, the University Council deferred its decision to appoint a principal for the Mona campus as the Government of Jamaica requested additional time to consult," said Dr Maurice Smith, university registrar and the chief administrator at regional institution. 

He said: "Having completed this process and consequently advised the Chancellor of the outcome, Council proceeded to appoint Professor Williams on the recommendation of the Vice-Chancellor in keeping with the University's Statutes and Ordinances."

It's not immediately clear what happened with the discussions Jamaica said it would have. 

Williams, a professor of international business, will leave his current post as principal of the Five Islands campus in Antigua and Barbuda to head Mona, The UWI's largest and oldest campus.

The UWI statement said Professor Williams, has built a career in business and academia for over 22 years. "He has held a remarkable record of public service, research and scholarly work serving on a number of boards of state entities, private sector organisations, committees, as well as regional and international editorial boards."

The selection process grew controversial because of Jamaica's reported 'discomfort' with Williams being the recommended candidate to fill the top post. The Government is a major funder of the institution and there were fears among the senior leadership that that could have been used to pressure the financially struggling university over who becomes principal. 

Education Minister Fayval Williams suffered a blow when an 11-member selection committee, of which she was a member, voted overwhelmingly on April 13 for Professor Williams, one of four candidates shortlisted for the post. Vice-Chancellor Sir Hilary Beckles then recommended Williams to the University Council, the institution's highest governing body. 

The other candidates were climate scientist Professor Michael Taylor, dean of the Faculty of Science and Technology; Professor Lloyd Waller, the executive director of the Global Tourism Resilience and Crisis Management Centre and an advisor to Jamaica's tourism minister; and Professor Agnis Stibe. 

Williams reportedly received at least eight votes, followed by Waller who got two, with one going to Taylor.

The education minister reportedly voted for Waller. 

After Gleaner reports on the developments, the Andrew Holness-led Government requested an investigation of what it said was the "unauthorised disclosure" of discussions regarding the selection process. 

Jamaica was among a minority of countries that did not support Beckles' contract extension as The UWI's chief executive officer, and is now faced with a campus leadership that it also did not support at first go. 

Williams, a former head of the Mona School of Business and Management, is taking over a campus in serious financial problems.

Despite improvements in some areas, up to 2022, Mona had an accumulated deficit, which stretches back to 2012, of around $8 billion. It's current liabilities increased by $342 million, or three per cent, to $12.3 billion. 

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