UG needs infusion of overseas personnel to boost staff quality
-Professor Lutchman

By Miranda La Rose
Stabroek News
August 1, 2000

The University of Guyana (UG) needs a strong infusion of personnel from overseas as a means of countering some of the negative consequences which have recently resulted from inbreeding, outgoing UG Vice-Chancellor, Professor Harold Lutchman says.

As he demits office, Dr Lutchman said that one of his main concerns is the dramatic change in the quality of staff which is related to a number of the problems the university community faces.

As yet, no Vice-Chancellor has been named and UG is also currently without a Deputy Vice-Chancellor since Dr Marlene Cox's contract was not renewed.

Information from the office of UG Pro Chancellor, Dr Joshua Ramsammy indicated that there will be a meeting of the UG Council to look into the matter of filling the current vacancies. A number of names are being scrutinised.

At an appreciation ceremony held in his honour at the George Walcott Lecture Theatre on Friday afternoon, Dr Lutchman said that UG has reached the stage "where increasingly we have to resort to recently graduated, and in some instances, prospective graduates to teach our courses."

This, he said, is neither healthy nor progressive, a consequence of the university being unable to attract and retain staff of quality because of the low levels of remuneration which it offers.

While suggesting that UG needs a strong infusion of personnel from overseas to counter some of the negative results, he said that many persons now in place would resist this, particularly in relation to overseas-based Guyanese. They would consider that the latter are almost traitors having left Guyana "for greener pastures when the going was rough and now wanting to share in the plums now that matters have improved."

Nevertheless, Dr Lutchman said that UG would only be able to attract overseas personnel when it is placed in a position to compete internationally for staff. In the absence of this, he said that some of the previous quality control mechanisms need to be reinstituted as a matter of urgency.

All sections of UG must be aware that they could contribute to solutions; and every lecturer vis a vis his or her student is a leader, and every worker or dweller on campus should see himself/herself as a potential leader as well.

Noting that his time has come to leave, with his last working day at UG being Friday after four years, Dr Lutchman said that in retrospect he was too stubborn and "out of sync with the power brokers." Not for a moment does he regret this, he said as he has his own values and codes of conduct by which he lives.

In particular, he said, that he strived to be impartial; maintaining his distance from the politicians; resisting political pressure; and seeking no favour nor being prepared to grant any. He reiterated that he came to Guyana to render professional and not political services. Neither did he return to Guyana expecting to do and say things that would be considered popular or acceptable by many.

In terms of judging the performance and status of UG and the role he played, Dr Lutchman said "that is best left to others." However, he noted that since he assumed the role of Vice-Chancellor at UG the student population has grown from 3,800 and is now approaching 5,000.

While faults and deficiencies are attributed to the VC and successes are credited to others, he recalled that when he came on board there were dire predictions that the university was in danger of imminent collapse; the number of leaking roofs was much greater and the environment was somewhat a cattle farm. There was a shortage of computers to the point where emergency action had to be taken to ensure that those doing computer-related courses had access to such machines.

In all of this, he said his favourite problem was the confusion which surrounded the LL.B. programme and the inability of UG graduates to gain entry to the Hugh Wooding Law School. Although he had just arrived, a number of students and parents blamed him for the state of affairs.

Claiming credit "with modesty" for the university receiving over 30 computers from various sources in and outside of Guyana and the establishment of the computer training school on the Turkeyen campus, Dr Lutchman said that he was merely inviting those who have been critical of the university to try to emulate some of his efforts at securing resources for the university. None of the computers was purchased with UG funds. "Yet," he said "one hears of some not-so-long ago official wanting the university's scarce resources to be expended on the purchase of two computers for his office."

Despite the criticism of wasteful and purposeless travel overseas, Dr Lutchman said that on his return from Canada on his first official visit for the university he secured seven computers and three printers, including six state-of-the-art computers and three printers while other top university officials have returned with promises yet to be realised.

In terms of managing the university, Dr Lutchman said that in spite of his previous experience, he learnt some valuable lessons about managing a university, particularly in the context of a country like Guyana.

He said that "regardless of your policies and knowledge, your ability to succeed is dependent on the support which you have, and receive at various levels of the organisation."

UG, he reiterated, is a microcosm of Guyana and reflects many of the strengths and weaknesses of the society of which it is part. In many respects solving its problems was dependent on changes and solutions in the wider society.

Since the days when there were no chronic problems, such as the non-submission of examination results on time or cheating at examinations, which was "extremely rare or perhaps, undetected," he said that "numbers have increased, but (UG) and its systems have not adjusted to and kept pace with the rate of change."

There were other elements involved which demonstrated the extent, and direction of change in values, he said. "I, for one, am both surprised and saddened when trained teachers, managers, public servants, etc., have to be disciplined for dishonest practices at examinations. It is a sad commentary on the direction in which our society has moved and is moving. But this is also symptomatic of other changes that have occurred and or occurring in the society, in general, and the university, in particular."

Few, he said, would disagree that there are major weaknesses and deficits in terms of experience and expertise among the ranks at UG. He admitted that this was one problem he failed to overcome there. He wished his successor more success than he had.

Answering the question posed to him by many as to whether he had regretted returning to Guyana from the US Virgin Islands, Dr Lutchman replied "some things... are better left unsaid, or as lawyers sometime say, the thing speaks for itself."

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