A former member of the 52nd legislature, Dusty Wolokolie, has called on members of the University of Liberia (UL) Board of Trustees to resign over the swift confirmation of Dr. Julius Sarwolo Nelson, who President George Weah recently nominated as president of the University.
Wolokolie’s statement, which was received by the Daily Observer over the weekend, said the UL Board of Trustees no longer had the moral authority to lead the University due to their action to speedily approve President Weah’s appointee to the post of UL President without going through any competitive vetting process.
As a member of the erstwhile 52nd Legislature, Mr. Wolokolie represented Montserrado County District #10. Wolokolie, a former president of the University of Liberia Student Union (ULSU), is also the father of Samora Wolokolie, Deputy Minister of Fiscal Affairs at the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning.
His statement comes amid huge public backlash over the University Board of Trustees’ action to downplay age-old tradition of recruiting president of the University on a competitive basis.
Traditionally, according to academics, when a vacancy occurred in the UL leadership, a search committee is constituted to review and vet applicants for the post. After such process, one academic added, a shortlist of qualified and competent candidates is prepared and submitted to the Board for approval and subsequent submission to the Visitor of the University, who is the President of Liberia, for appointment.
“The fact that the UL Board sidestepped this important process raises questions about the integrity of its decision, which has let many down and distressed, including me. Fellow patriots, the UL Board of Trustees failed their fiduciary responsibilities by not advising President Weah against acting in ways that undermine the independence and integrity of the University or by recklessly endorsing actions by him that violate the Charter,” Wolokolie said.
“In view of the above, I am calling on the entire UL Board of Trustees to do the honorable thing by resigning their posts. If they failed to do so, I will lead a public-spirited campaign to have them resign to allow for the reconstitution of the Board as provided for in the Charter,” he said.
He added, “I am also calling on all students of the University of Liberia to wake up to the threat posed to academic freedom and excellence by the irregular appointment of Dr. Nelson as president of the University of Liberia, and demand fitting explanations from the Board of Trustees.”
Mr. Wolokolie said although the president has the right to dismiss and nominate the President of the UL for approval of the Board of Trustees, the Board should have protected the Charter of the University by constituting a search committee to subject the President’s nominee to a competitive vetting and selection process.
He also said that flagrantly sidestepping established policies and procedures for dismissal, recruitment and selection of the President of the University constitutes a grave affront to the “independence of the University and a threat to academic freedom and excellence.”
“It appears as if the nation is losing its soul as those who are supposed to be the moral conscience of the nation are bowing down to gods of tin and wood. I don’t know what justification can the UL Board of Trustees provide for such spineless behavior, because they are perceived as icons of integrity. Here we have a Board of Trustees charged with the responsibility to provide guidance; ensure adherence to established policies, and protect and defend the Charter of the University, dismally failing to act to protect the integrity of the institution and being complicit in the violation of the UL Charter,” he said.
Meanwhile, Mr. Wolokolie has called on President Weah to do the honorable thing by rescinding the appointment and subjecting his nominee, Dr. Julius Sarwolo Nelson, to a competitive vetting and selection process in keeping with tradition out of which the most suitably qualified candidate will be selected and recommended for appointment.
“Fellow compatriots, I am putting this challenge to the UL Board of Trustees to remind them of their sacred charge and responsibility to administer the affairs of the University of Liberia in the best interests of the institution and the public, and not on the basis of political expediency, and certainly not to ingratiate themselves into the good favors of the President of Liberia at the expense of the University in return for extra favors, pecuniary or otherwise,” he said.