“The faculty [has] resolved that they would not return to class until Dr. Nelson is removed as President of UL and until all aspects of the MoU that was signed on October 1, 2021, are fully implemented,” said Patten Acting Secretary-General of the faculty association.
The President of the University of Liberia, Dr. Julius Nelson has suffered an unexpected blow, as faculty members of the country’s largest public university voted in favor of a motion expressing no confidence in his leadership.
The faculty action is a stunning rebuke of Dr. Nelson's handling of ‘governance issues’ — prompting the faculty to initiate the vote as a means of making it clear that their disenchantment with the president is deeper than many had imagined.
“[Faculty’s] determination was based on the University of Liberia (UL) President’s insistence to implement the decision to delete faculty members from the payroll against every advice from the University of Liberia Faculty Association (ULFA),” said Eric Patten, the group Acting Secretary-General on behalf of his colleagues in a release.
“The faculty in a general assembly further lamented the action of the president to endanger their livelihood and violate their human rights without any legal basis,” Patten added. “Thus, the faculty resolved that they would not return to class until Dr. Nelson is removed as President of UL and until all aspects of the MoU that was signed on October 1, 2021, are fully implemented.”
The MOU in question called for better welfare for faculty members, including social security and medical insurance, salary increment, and a conducive learning environment.
And while the vote is a symbol of deep distrust between the faculty and Dr. Nelson’s administration, they are nonbinding. However, the faculty's threats to halt teaching activities until their demands are met would hurt the university’s June 27 planned opening for thousands of students.
Only the Visitor of the University, President George Weah, has the power to fire Nelson, and, for now, this seems unlikely; therefore, he may suffer no formal consequences as a result of the vote and is considered unlikely to step down.
But the June 15 vote is an open rebuke of Nelson's decision-making skills, as faculty members considered it problematic — and now by the votes, they believe passionately that a change is needed to accurately reflect their perceptions.
It is yet unclear how Nelson will respond to the vote of “no confidence,” but a compromise with the faculty concerning the payroll issue is the only way out to have faculty members drop the plan strike actions and support his leadership as he leads the University through a time of rapid changes in higher education.
The faculty members in a release also noted that they no longer recognize Dr. Nelson as President and that all members are expected to immediately withdraw from all academic activities on all campuses.
“Therefore, the leadership of ULFA no longer recognizes Dr. Nelson as President of the UL. ULFA leadership also cautions all members of ULFA to immediately withdraw from all academic activities on all campuses of the UL as anyone going against the decision will be severely punished in line with the By-laws & Constitution of ULFA,” Patten added.
Citing the root cause of the problem, the faculty release said that their action came after several diplomatic attempts to convince the UL administration to rescind its decision on removing faculty members from payroll in the name of “double-dipping.”
The release said that Dr. Nelson on May 25, informed all full-time faculties in communication that they would be removed from the university payroll and reduced to part-time faculty as instructed by the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning effective that month as a result of “double-dipping.”
However, the faculty release did not state what the double-dipping issue raised by the Ministry of Finance was.
“He sighted Section 9.10 of the code of conduct as his reliance, although this section states otherwise. However, the leadership of ULFA resisted and contended that the action was ultra-positive and would lead to devastating consequences for the UL.
“The UL Administration reiterated its stance in a meeting held with the ULFA leadership in which Samora Wolokolie, the Deputy Minister for Fiscal Affairs at the Ministry of Finance was present. Wolokollie further threatened to extend his action beyond the initial 75 faculty that were already affected. The ULFA resisted, but the president administration seemed bent on following the instructions of Wolokollie,” Pattennoted in the faculty release.
Meanwhile, the Vice President for University of Liberia Relations, Norris Tweah, has called on the ULFA to continue to work with the UL administration to ensure that their issues are amicably addressed.