Mixed reactions on Griffith’s exit from UG
Professor Ivelaw Lloyd Griffith
Professor Ivelaw Lloyd Griffith

THERE have been mixed reactions following the move by Professor Ivelaw Griffith to withdraw his request to have his contract renewed for the post of Vice Chancellor of the University of Guyana.

“I just think that it was the best thing in the circumstances and for all parties concerned, including the council and the university,” Member of the UG Council and President of the University of Guyana Senior Staff Association (UGSSA), Dr. Jewel Thomas said.
Over the past few months, both the UGSSA and the University of Guyana Workers Union (UGWU) had advocated for the removal of Professor Griffith, alleging that he was wasteful and poured money everywhere else except into developing the teaching space, under his leadership. A call was also made for an overhaul of the institution’s senior administration.

Thomas opined that the university is now in a better position to “fix” a lot of the issues within the university and its administration that have been recently put in the limelight. “This particular episode points to a lot of weaknesses in the university- some of which we knew existed- but this has just shown how weak they are and [that there are] various parts of the institution that need to be strengthened,” she said. She also opined that the UG council of itself is one body that needs to have its operations improved. Importantly, she reminded that the unions have advocated for council to implement a system of evaluation for the VC, and by extension senior management, from the very beginning. With Professor Griffith demitting office on June 14, a Transitional Management Team will manage the affairs of the academic institution.

The team, which was duly approved by the University Council, is being chaired by Deputy Vice-Chancellor for Academic Engagement, Professor Michael Scott; with Deputy Vice-Chancellor for Philanthropy, Alumni and Civic Engagement, Professor Paloma Mohamed serving as the Deputy Chair; and Registrar, Dr Nigel Gravesande will serve as Secretary to the Management Committee.

Thomas indicated that this management body is one which already existed in the council’s statute, and indicated that this body is tasked with reporting back to the council intermittently.
She also shared that the UG unions would state their official position on Griffith’s withdrawal, via a statement, at a later time. Friday last, Griffith himself confirmed to this newspaper that he no longer wishes to renew his contract with the university. At the time, he did not wish to say why and instead promised to share his reasons at another date. Speaking to the Guyana Chronicle on Monday, Griffith however said that he was no longer interested in having further discussions on the matter.

“Just let it be,” he said.

Professor Griffith was appointed the Tenth Principal and Vice Chancellor of The University of Guyana in June 2016, having served earlier as Executive-in-Residence at The University at Albany, State University of New York, and the Ninth President of Fort Valley State University in Georgia.

Meanwhile, President of the University of Guyana Student Society (UGSS), Devta Ramroop expressed her sadness at Professor Griffith withdrawing his request. “Professor Griffith, in my opinion, has the experience, grit, connections and a vision like no other to transform our national university,” she said, noting that the progress from 2015 (when he assumed the position) to now is evident. Importantly, she shared that the Professor engaged with the UGSS constantly, in order to listen to and address their complaints. “He wasn’t perfect, but then who is? I hope this is reconsidered,” she said further. “I’ve always seen the bigger picture and it involved benefits to current and future students.”

Overseas-based Guyanese Dr. Terrence Blackman also expressed regret over the Professor’s withdrawal. “This is a bad day for Guyana,” he said, when he found out about Griffith’s decision, via his Facebook page. “This is a really unfortunate development.” Dr. Blackman is a mathematician and is currently the Dean of the School of Science, Health and Technology at Medgar Evers College of the City University of New York. In a leadership position himself, he posited: “Professor Ivelaw Griffith evidenced the talent, the temperament, the expertise, experience and the academic network necessary to move us forward.”

He also expressed that with the appointment of persons to lead Guyana’s university, there needs to be some “governing consensus” from the country’s leadership class, across the political spectrum. Other professors in the United States, Dr. Aubrey Bonnett, Dr. Edward Davis and Dr. Patrick R. Liverpool have expressed their support of Professor Griffith for the post of VC. “While the status quo is comfortable, we believe that for UG to evolve and grow and become the top notch institution it is capable of becoming, transformational leadership is imperative,” the three professors wrote in a letter to this newspaper.

They further said, “It is our contention that Dr. Ivelaw Griffith’s vision, energy, integrity and love for his institution and country make him the right leader at the right time to effectuate a renaissance for the University of Guyana.”
The Alumni and Friends of the University of Guyana (AFOUG) has also publicly expressed their support for the renewal of Griffith’s contract.

On May 23, the Council ordered Professor Griffith to proceed on terminal leave, effective May 28, 2019. The University’s Administration said the decision was in accordance with the terms and conditions of his contract. Before the beginning of his terminal leave, however, it was made known that Professor Griffith had expressed interest in renewing his contract. The UG Council had decided that before any decision is made on either the renewal or non-renewal of the contract, an evaluation would be done on Griffith’s performance- as long advocated for by the unions.


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