Cuttington Board of Trustees Suspends Embattled President

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Students celebrating after announcement

The Cuttington University (CU) board of trustees on Wednesday May 30, 2018 met for more than five hours with members of the Cuttington University Faculty Association before announcing its decision to suspend the president Herman B. Browne until an investigation is conducted.

“The Board of Trustees is aware of the public outcries and concerns about what going on the University main campus” said Bishop Jonathan B. B. Hart, the CU board chair.

The Board of Trustees wouldn’t explain the concerns that ultimately led them to Wednesday’s decision. Father James Tamba, the dean of the Cuttington University College of Theology, will serve as interim president.

However, a source close to the matter told the Daily Observer that the suspension is more of an administrative measure not necessarily disciplinary, since there has been no investigation.  “The board may be taking this decision to diffuse tensions and allow the University to close out the academic year with final exams and commencement in order,” the source said.

CU board chair, Bishop Jonathan B. B. Hart, leaving the hall after meeting

Faculty had been complaining that Dr. Browne lacked administrative decorum and takes unilateral decisions. Students of the university have been demonstrating for weeks, barring vehicles from entering the Suakoko campus as part of a protest against the administration of Dr. Browne.

Justice Minister Cllr. F. Musa Dean and Education Minister Prof. Ansu Sonii, who led a team of mediators on campus,  said the government of Liberia stepped in to resolve the standoff because the Board of Trustees made two fruitless different attempts to resolve crisis. Others in attendance included former Justice Minister, Cllr. Frederick Cherue; LNP Deputy Inspector General for Operations, Robert Budy; and the president of the Cuttington University Alumni Association, Charles B. Allen, Jr.

“We are government and it is the responsibility of the government to ensure that its citizens are at peace with each other. The intervention of the government and the cooperation of the parties have made us to reach a decision,” the two Ministers maintained.

(Front) Justice Minister Cllr. Musa Dean and Education Minister Ansu Sonii, followed by CU alumni association president Charles Allen (rear, left)

The president of the Cuttington University Faculty Association (CUFA), Lepolu Torlon, described the decision of the Board of Trustees as “a victory”, adding, “this is the beginning of Dr. Browne’s departure from the institution.”

“At this time, it is important that the Cuttington University faculty remains focused on our top priority and greatest treasure, which is our students,” Torlon said in a statement. “I think it’s commendable the board had the courage to take action when there were some real mistakes made,” Lepolu Torlon added.

He disclosed that the teachers have agreed after the suspension of Dr. Browne to return into the classrooms beginning Thursday, May 31, 2018 and final exams will be administered the following week.

The students have been demanding Browne’s resignation on grounds that he has failed to live up to the task since he became president a year ago. They accused Browne, a 1986 graduate of Cuttington, of bad labor practices, poor management and dictatorial leadership. They have been marching across campus carrying placards that read: “Brown must go” and “No school until Dr. Browne resigns.”

The students’ action had resulted to the cancellation of final exams, which was expected to take place last week.

Four months into his tenure, Brown became embroiled in a heated argument with faculty members of the institution over his attempt to unilaterally reorganize the school’s administration. It was only one of many power struggles that eventually spilled into the media through a series of news conferences held by faculty of the university.

When contacted, Dr. Herman Browne told the Daily Observer, “I’m just digesting the news of today. I cannot speak to faculty’s perception of the board’s decision, as to what they mean. I can simply say I respect the boards decision; my feelings irrelevant.

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