Dr. Ophelia Inez Weeks, the newly inducted President of the University of Liberia (UL), has underscored a number of strategies she intends to employ to improve the institution. Among her plans are personnel evaluation and enhancement programs, faculty capacity building, teaching and learning centers, and introduction of new academic programs to include Information Communication Technology for undergraduates and Environmental Sciences at the graduate level.
In her 48 minute induction address on the theme “To Nobler Destiny”, Dr. Weeks emphasized that her administration will weed out the wrong people from the institution at all levels, and will work with the right persons. She described those she considers the right persons as individuals who are committed to the ideals and success of the UL and who are trustworthy and have integrity.
With deep emphasis and emotions, she said “Malfeasance, misfeasance, and non-feasance (MMN) are not welcome, and our policy moving forward is zero tolerance for the MMN.” On faculty and capacity building, Weeks said in the next three years, she hopes the university can realize qualitative and quantitative improvements in faculty profile. “We will reduce part-time faculty by 50 percent, increase full time faculty to a ratio of three percent full time to one percent part-time, determine the instructional needs of each academic unit based on required course offerings each semester, and especially focus on training and hiring advance degree faculty in these disciplines, as well as where we have specific gaps,” Dr. Weeks said.
She added that her administration will reduce by 85 percent the number of faculty with solely first degrees, and increase the number of faculty with terminal degrees by 30 percent. In addition to new academic programs, Dr. Weeks disclosed that in the next four years, her administration will establish undergraduate programs in mechanical engineering, architecture, fisheries and an Honors College. She said efforts have been made for the introduction of a Masters in Public Health and Environmental Sciences program, which according to her, will not take three years to establish. She further disclosed that the UL administration in partnership with the Ministry of Health, Tubman National Institute of Medical Arts (TNIMA) and international partner universities has drafted a curriculum for the Master’s program in Public Health.
Dr. Weeks, who also acknowledged what her faculty and staff have achieved, told the gathering that the UL administration and faculty are in the process of establishing a functioning Testing and Evaluation Center that will not only be limited to entrance exams. Furthermore, she said the UL Student Union (ULSU) financial aid program is causing registration difficulties every semester, and therefore she is contemplating putting in place Students’ Success and Service Centers through which students are recruited, evaluated, monitored and placed in various university-wide academic and administrative work-study settings. She also promised to make available Wi-fi internet access at the four campuses of the UL by the end of the year; assuring that it is already in the making.
Outgoing UL President, Dr. Emmet A. Dennis, in his remarks, said he was happy to be able to see Dr. Weeks succeed him. He urged her to handle the gavel of authority given to her with sincerity and integrity that will not give in to the activities of people he referred to as “glass bottle.”
Performing the induction ceremony was the Acting Chair of the Board of Trustees, Senator Jewel Howard Taylor who oversaw the robbing of the new president and the presentation of the gavel of authority to her by the outgoing president, Dr. Emmet Dennis who now becomes the 13th president emeritus.
Earlier, Dr. Roseda Marshall, co-chair of the UL president search committee reported on how Dr. Weeks was selected as president.
Yesterday’s ceremony was attended by President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Visitor of the UL who made special remarks (separate story), a number of diplomats including United States, Cameroon and Cuba. U.S. Ambassador Christine Elder congratulated Dr. Weeks, and urged her to be diligent, to produce lawyers that will provide pro-bono services to poor people to have access to justice. She also said the United States stands to help the UL in the areas of engineering.
Also in attendance were government officials, members of the legislature, presidents of other universities and Dr. Weeks’ family members and many friends and well wishers.
Dr. Weeks’ younger sister, Angelique Weeks, described her sister as a “workaholic and very strict without fear.” Angelique, who is chairperson of the Liberia Telecommunications Authority, said she believes in her sister and is confident that she will deliver on her goals, “and make the family proud.” The two sisters in their separate speeches, paid homage to their parents for their upbringing and insistence on education that helped to make them successful individuals.
Other speakers at the convocation included representatives of universities in Liberia and Ghana, the UL faculty and staff, the Alumni Association and the president of the UL Student Union.
Dr. Weeks becomes the second female president of UL, the first being Dr. Mary Antoinette Brown-Sherman after whom the Fendell campus will be named. Dr. Weeks follows in the footsteps of her father who also served as UL president (1959-1971) and was the first Liberian to hold that post.
Some faculty members that spoke to this newspaper lauded the outgoing president, Dr. Dennis, for improvements at the university during his nine year tenure, and pledged to work with Dr. Weeks in meeting the objectives and goals of the university as she takes over.