AS should look at promotions and hiring practices
I am disappointed to hear that the recently appointed Pro Vice-Chancellor (VC), Dr. Emanuel Cummings, and other lecturers have been promoted. I am not familiar with the academic record of the Deputy VC, Dr. Mellissa Ifill and as such I cannot comment on whether she deserves promotion. But I’m familiar with some of Dr.’s successes. Cummings; he deserves promotion to the Professor. A name comes up time and time again for the person who prevents promotion and in hiring practices. It should be sent on holiday pending a complaint investigation.
There are many complaints about hiring and promotion practice at AS. Lecturers and some teaching candidates complain that hiring and promotion are based on political affiliation and ethnicity. Several lecturers complained that, although they have repeatedly applied for promotion, they have not been promoted even though they have gained it based on academic achievements such as research and publishing, experience and enhancing the AS image nationally and internationally . Eligible applicants, including PhDs, inform me that they applied at AS but were not recognized. The question is WHY? The promotion process may be very slow and take several years or there are elements in AS that are deliberately optional when hiring or promoting.
AS needs to have a transparent process of hiring and resolving its criteria for promoting staff in a fair, deserving, honest and open way. This is a matter of urgency for the VC, Paloma Mohamed Martin, which should be empowered to effect profound change at the university.
I never met or chatted with Cummings or Ifill or Paloma. If they have met the criteria for objective evaluation, they should be promoted. All AS staff should be treated equally and fairly regardless of ethnicity or political affiliation. If a lecturer has met the criteria for promotion to a certain level then it should be promoted accordingly.
In academia, a lecturer is promoted for research publications, grant acceptance, peer / peer respect, peer-reviewed journal management, student ratings, university community performance and service, national and international status, research student supervision, development courses, role in academic committees including accreditation, and among other criteria. Dr. Cummings has excelled in all measurements. In addition, he is well qualified (DVetM; MSc (UClan) and PhD (UClan)) and held senior roles at AS, including Reader in Biochemistry and Dean of the College of Health Sciences and even acted as Vice-Chancellor before Ivelaw Griffith became VC, he worked with the late Dr. Max Hanoman to gain the accreditation for the MBBS course at AS When he was on sabbatical, the University failed to renew the accreditation. with his colleagues to acquire MBBS. accreditation for another five years.With my undergraduate degree in Biochemistry and having done postgraduate research on non-communicable diseases, we can get involved in some Cummings research published in awarded journals. Local Guyanese on the epidemiology of chronic non-communicable diseases including the prevention and treatment of obesity, diabetes, cancers, cardiovascular and others highlighting Guyanese health and social care problems, has published several dozens of papers . He and Professor Jaipaul Singh (PhD, DSc) of the United Kingdom (UK) co-authored several of these papers. I discovered that they had received a grant from the British Council and the World Bank for research, training and exchange of AS-trained staff, students, and doctors between Guyana and the UK.
Dr. Cummings is well known and internationally recognized, and has gained national and international peer esteem. AS course offerings indicate that Dr. Cummings has taught clinical biochemistry for the MBBS (medicine) and BDS (dentistry). He has extensive teaching and research experience over 25 years. He has supervised a number of students for the research projects that led to the award of the MSc. Students rate his lectures and management highly. He is co-editor for research journals and has reviewed research papers and grants.
Dr. Cummings is in Cuba for his Vet medical degree and is a fluent Spanish speaker. Most importantly, Dr. Cummings is a long-standing member of the accreditation board for MBBS and BDS in the Caribbean. He is highly qualified in undergraduate and postgraduate course development in many fields of medicine and surgery. He successfully established several new undergraduate and postgraduate courses and programs at AS including Pharmacy, Optometry, Public Health, advanced postgraduate Diplomas in medicine and surgery, and other fields. Dr. Cummings is an important asset and advisor to be found in any university globally. In my opinion, all the criteria mentioned above more than qualify it for promotion to full-time teacher for life and not a temporary title.
Editor, lecturers at AS fear persecution when submitting complaints of discrimination in promotion. And some prospective lecturers, with a PhD, don’t want to file complaints of discrimination for fear of hiring. Some cry on my shoulders when visiting AS and when interacting on the phone, appealing to me to uncover what is happening at university in the hope of getting redress from the board and VC.
If either the Academic Board / Council Members or the VC can conduct a private confidential staff survey, then they would be surprised at the degree of dissatisfaction among teaching and non-teaching staff. Racial and political discrimination in promotion is the main complaint and my findings abound in conversations with some of them. Importantly too, everyone complained about low, unattractive wages. This was the reason for some staff working elsewhere to make ends meet, neglecting time for staff-student discussion to resolve teaching or counseling issues and problems. Students also complained that some staff members are not up to standard in their field and the teaching notes do not appear to be innovative and modern for the 21st Century. Students have changed briefly. AS needs to attract quality staff to enhance its reputation. Many PhD candidates are not employed; in fact, some told me that the registrar, VC, Dean, or head of department have not even acknowledged their CV for months if not years. This is unacceptable! At a White university I attended in New York, heads would have rolled. (When I was student leader, I organized protests and petitions in the late 1970s and early 1980s at City University to bring about change; students and faculty may want to do the same at AS). Another important issue raised by students is the quality assurance of the various courses in the various faculties and the lack of student support. Some courses have never been reviewed for years and this could be part of the next academic plan for another 5-10 years.
The AS Academic Board / Council or the VC or government should convene a committee to discuss ‘private’ grievance issues by staff, applicants and students and make recommendations on improving academic conditions, hiring practices and promotions. That committee should also provide feedback on a way forward for AS.
Vishnu Bisram Dr.