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Point and Counter Point: Sleeping on the job – No UB President for two years

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Posted: Tuesday, January 18, 2022. 12:37 pm CST.

Тhе vіеwѕ ехрrеѕѕеd іn this аrtісlе аrе those оf the writer аnd nоt nесеѕѕаrіlу those оf Вrеаkіng Веlіzе Nеwѕ or the Institution he serves.

By Dorian A. Barrow, Ph.D., Florida State University: It has been two years since our national university, The University of Belize (UB), has been without an in-person President. The last person to be appointed to the post was Professor Clement Sankat who spent the last year and a half of his tenure leading the university remotely from his home in the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago. Six months, or 183 days ago, the Prime Minister, the Hon. John Briceno asked the Chairman of the UB Board, Mr Anthony Sylvester, to do a presidential search and recommend to him a short list of names from which he and the Leader of the Opposition, Hon. Patrick Faber, can select and name the new UB President. The UB Board’s Presidential Search Committee seem to have gone into a Rip Van Winkle like slumber, as to date no recommendations have been sent to the Prime Minister. The word in Belmopan is that the PM is furious, and I am told so is the Leader of the Opposition!

Why the Search Committee has not completed their work after six months is anybody’s guess. There has been no official release updating the nation and the University Community as the members of the search committee are tight-lipped about this job that we are paying them to do. UB Board Members receive a stipend of about $1,000 per month to serve on the Board. We are reliably informed that this delay in the completion of this job is not because of there being a lack of applicants to chose from. We know of at least four persons who have applied for the job namely Dr Pricilla Lopez-Brown, Dr Leroy Almendarez, Dr Alberto August, and Dr Leopold Perriot. We have also hear of several others who have expressed interest in taking up the position if invited including at least two former UB Presidents.

The purpose of this short piece, therefore, is to highlight some of the missed opportunities that UB may have foregone while the institution struggles without a President -its institutional leader – and to suggest why I think there may be some deliberateness in proceeding with this long inexcusable delay in appointing a President of the National University. Why then has UB remained leaderless for such an extended period of time?

As John Maxwell says “the single biggest way to impact and control an organization is to focus on its leadership”. This is, in part, because an organization with a weak leader, or no leader at all, is easy to manipulate and control, for as the pessimists in the organization complains about the political winds, and the optimists expects it to change, the leader adjust the sails. The very essence of leadership is that you have to have vision, you have to know where you want to take the university. Even the Bible reminds us that in an organization without vision, both the internal and external stakeholders perish. You simple cannot blow an uncertain trumpet!

Good Presidential Leaders instill in their university’s faculty, staff and students a hope for success, and a belief in themselves. Positive Presidential Leaders empower people to accomplish the national goals, that the national university has a mandate to do. The mark of a good University President is one who sticks with a bold course of action. He or she does not follow where the path may lead, but go instead where there is no path and leave a trail. They inspire others to dream more, learn more and do more. I believe that UB has remain leaderless for such a long time, in part, because UB’s legislative autonomy has always threatened the local political and economically powerful elites and some nation-states in the hegemonic West, because of the National University’s potential to help to help lead the country in forging its own path forward, its own way of becoming! Controlling the University remotely, from behind the scenes, without accountability, is one strategy used to stymie this potential. It is one way to use the University to serve their own self-interest, whatever those self-interest may be.

I, like the Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition and so many other Citizens and stakeholders in this Country, believe that this UB Presidential Search Committee should wake up from their slumber and get that short list of prospective nominees to the PM, so that he and the Leader of the Opposition can make the decision and a UB President appointed. UB needs one now more than ever before, as the Country needs a fully functioning National University to help the Country heal and recover, especially economically, from this Pandemic. Most importantly, students need to get back on track with their education and career development. The country needs them now more than ever.

Feel free to use the column below to join this conversation on our National University and its role in the sustainable development of the country, or to critique any or all the claims that have been made in the piece above and let’s get this conversation on higher education in Belize going.

Dr. Dorian Barrow is currently working at Galen University as the Dean of the Department of Education. He has a long history of involvement in education in Belize, having served as a Lecturer at the University of Belize, and as Chief Executive Officer in the Ministry of Education. Dr. Barrow is an eminent professional who is well respected both locally and abroad. He is serving as an editorial member and reviewer of several international reputed journals and has authored many research articles/books related to education. Apart from education, he is also a sports enthusiast.

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