Liberia: ‘No-Confidence Vote’ Fails to Move UL President

Dr. Julius Nelson: "We remain committed to ensuring that all Liberians have access to quality higher education."




The President of the University of Liberia has said that while he is ready to collegially and constructively work with the university's faculty to address their concerns, they should just be ready to resume work when school opens.

Dr. Julius Nelson's position comes just a day after the University of Liberia Faculty Association, cited concerns about faculty governance issues’, particularly his insistence about implementing the decision to delete faculty members from the payroll against their advice, has been the reason for the lack of confidence.

However, an immediate change in Nelson's status seems unlikely, as he still enjoys the favor of the Visitor of the University, President George Weah, who has the power to fire but seems unlikely to do so. The faculty's threats to halt teaching activities until their demands are met, however, would hurt the university’s June 27 planned opening for thousands of students.

But in a response to the faculty’s “no-confidence vote,” Nelson said that while he is yet to receive any communication to that effect, he is not thinking about resigning but rather committed to ensuring that all Liberians have access to education.

“We are aware that there will be challenges, but we all have to work together to resolve our issues and make progress. We remain committed to ensuring that all Liberians have access to quality higher education,” Nelson said.

[I] therefore call on all faculty, including both full-time and part-time, to be in readiness and get prepared for the resumption of classes come June 27. The university administration is committed to administering the affairs of this institution in a fair and impartial manner, and will not knowingly ill-treat any of its employees, whether in the academic or administrative departments.”

The University of Liberia, a public charter that caters to the vast majority of the country's population, has in the past seen confrontations between presidents and faculty but it was smoothed over before reaching the point of a formal no-confidence vote.

And while he might have survived removal as a compromise on contentious issues might be found down the line, the vote of no confidence, believed to be the first in the university history, is a blow for Nelson as a result of the faculty questioning his leadership style.

And it signals that the faculty believe passionately that a change is needed to accurately reflect their perceptions.

The faculty, citing the reason behind the vote of no confidence, blamed Nelson's determination to implement the decision to delete faculty members from the payroll against their advice — a proposal which they considered as human rights abuse.

They claimed he refused to listen to their advice via several diplomatic attempts to convince him and the UL administration to rescind its decision on removing faculty members from payroll in the name of “double-dipping.”

“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,” said faculty Acting Secretary-General, Eric Patten, on behalf of his colleagues in a release. “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.” 

But for Nelson, the issue of “double-dipping” was not of his own making, but rather something that was brought to his attention by the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning (MFDP) — claiming that several full-time faculty members of the university were also fully employed with other government ministries and agencies.

Nelson added that the Ministry of Finance informed his administration that the issue of double-dipping — having two full-time jobs within government undermines wage reform efforts and also contravenes Section 9.10 of the Code of Conduct.

Section 9.10 of the National Code of Conduct for all public officials and employees of the government titled Receipt of Double Emoluments states “Public Officials and Employees of Government shall not while receiving or being paid salaries by the Government, at the same time receive or be paid a salary by any other public office unless it is established that such additional employment is in the public interest.

“The request from the MFDP affected all employees including faculty and staff, and not them alone. Upon a forensic analysis of the university payroll, a total number of 74 employees (62 faculty and 12 administrative staff) for which we have been advocating, were found to be in that category.

“As a result, the MFDP has indicated that it will ultimately transfer all full employment staff of other central government entities to part-time status at public educational institutions,” Nelson said.

He however said that employees of the university, whose salaries were transitioned to a part-time status, have since been paid in full based on successful negotiations with the MFDP.

But in anticipation of any situation which may hamper teaching and learning, the administration of the university has written a letter of appeal to the government to reconsider and give the matter more reflection.

Meanwhile, Dr. Nelson has said at some point in time, his administration arranged a meeting between the Ministry of Finance and the faculty association, at which time clarifications were made by the government regarding the issue of double-dipping.

Nelson's clarification was earlier alluded to by the faculty association but they claimed that the university administration reiterated its support for the ministry’s proposal in a meeting held, at 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's administration seemed bent on following the instructions of Wolokollie,” Patten noted in the faculty release.  He cited 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.