Fr. Tamba Named Acting Cuttington President

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Angry Cuttington University students besieged the campus entrance by blocking the main gate and burning tires on the highway (Photo: Maureen Sieh)

-As students re-echo calls for Dr. Browne’s resignation

The Bishop of the Episcopal Church in Liberia and Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Cuttington University (CU) in Suakoko Bong County, Rev. Dr. Jonathan B. B. Hart, has named Father James Tamba as Acting president of the university until a new president is appointed.

Fr. Tamba is the Dean of the College of Theology, but the decision was reached on Thursday May 17, on the main campus of the university at the end of a three hour meeting with both irate students and lecturers.

Fr. Tamba address the aggrieved students shortly after he was announced as the interim head. (Photo: Marcus N. Malayea)

On Tuesday May 15, hundreds of students staged a protest action demanding the removal of the president, Dr. Herman Browne, for what the protesting students say is the administration’s failure to provide 24-hour electricity on campus.

The students, who had been protesting since May 15, demanded that Episcopal Bishop, Jonathan B.B. Hart, walk with them when he arrived at the main entrance of the university to the Graduation Stand where the students had arranged a meeting with him.

The Bishop consented, but he could not continue the walk with the students due to the presence of huge crowd, which had announced that they have besieged him until he announced Dr. Browne’s removal.

The Cuttington University Student Union (CUSU) president, Clint Layweh, who read the position statement on behalf of the students, reiterated their demand for the resignation of Dr. Browne.

Among other things, the students informed Bishop Hart that the since Dr. Browne ascended as CU’s president, students have had to buy sheets to print their tests and other instructional materials. They maintained that since Dr. Browne took over the institution a year ago, there have been no security guards assigned to protect the facility and its occupants, because he removed all the security guards from campus.

Parked near the entrance and guarded by police, Bishop Hart’s vehicle was barred by students from entering the campus. They demanded that he walk with them onto the campus, to the meeting venue. (Photo: Maureen Sieh)

As a result, women at the Rally Hall dormitory have had to mount their own security and monitors. This situation, according to the students, who became disgruntled, has caused a drop in enrollment.

Layweh told Bishop Hart before a record crowd that the protest would continue as long as the Episcopal Church and the Board of Trustees of the CU had refused to let Dr. Browne go.

“We will continue the protest until the Board of Trustees and the Episcopal Church reverse their decision by holding onto Dr. Browne,” the student leader declared.

He pointed out that since Dr. Browne assumed the presidency, students are yet to enjoy bursary and scholarships as it was during past administrations.

Another student, who spoke on anonymity, told the Daily Observer that, “nothing has been done for students to see as the reason for the increment in non-tuition fees and why Dr. Browne should be president of this great citadel of African Excellence.”

The students said since Dr. Browne was inaugurated as president in 2016, there has been a drastic cut in electricity supply from 18 hours to five hours daily, from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. and from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m., a situation which the students said has prevented them, especially the boarding students, from accessing the internet and studying at night.

Some students told Bishop Hart that Dr. Browne does not relate to the student leadership or even the teaching staff, because he has an “authoritarian” style of leadership.

Bishop Jonathan B. B. Hart, Chairman of the Cuttington University Board of Trustees (Photo: Maureen Sieh)

Bishop Hart was accompanied to the campus by heavily armed police officers.

The President of the Liberia National Student Union (LINSU), Matthias Yeanay, meanwhile called on the CU administration to timely address the concerns of the students.

Bishop Hart however, lauded the students and teachers for the manner in which they conducted themselves in seeking for redress to their plight, adding, “Cuttington is bigger than anyone else, so we will not allow this institution to be reduced to public disrepute.”

He then assured the students that some of their concerns will be addressed in the soonest possible time, but at the same time, cautioned them to influence their parents and officials in government to increase the institution’s subsidy to take care of its many priorities.

Bishop Hart informed the audience that in the last budget cycle, Cuttington received US$500,000 from the government, but that amount dropped to US$300,000 in the 2016/2017 budget.

“It costs US$1,050 a day to run the generator on a regular schedule from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. and from 7 p.m. to 2 a.m.

“The university needs 20 gallons of fuel an hour to run its 410 and 510 KVA generators. Cuttington University cannot survive on tuition alone and that’s why we have been pushing for an increment in the budgetary allotment,” Bishop Hart said.

Jeremiah C. Sulunteh engages some of the students during the protest. (Photo: Maureen Sieh)

Also present were Maureen Sieh, Orea Wright and former Liberian Ambassador to the U.S.A, Jeremiah C Sulunteh, as part of the alumni engagement team.

“Things were really tense,” Sieh told her fellow Cuttington alumni via Facebook. “This is truly a different generation that we are dealing with. Told the bishop that the rules of engagement has changed from his generation and mine, so we have to be strategic. Listen more. We tried to get the students to reach a compromise to get through exams and graduation. Bishop angered them when he suggested that the board would meet next week. That’s partly because most of the board members are not in country. There has been a lot of one-on-one engagement (including phone) with instructors and students.”

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6 COMMENTS

  1. In Liberia, the authorities seem to be reactive instead of proactive. Why do they always allow things to get out of hand and become a crisis before taking action? It makes no sense. We had a similar situation recently with healthcare workers who went on strike before the authorities addressed their grievances. That is not the best way to solve problems. To make matters worse, the citizens don’t trust their leaders so there is a credibility issue with the authorities. The people are just fed-up now and they resort to violence in short order to get the authorities to address their complaints. Liberian civilization or whatever is left of it is in danger of exploding.

  2. Phil George,
    You’ve made my point! There is a tendency for our leaders to act on something after something happens. Frankly, the government should always act before something happens.

    First of all, Cuttington University is one of our country’s premier universities. A good number of Liberian educators have obtained their undergraduate degrees from Cuttington. In fact, the university continues to grant more degrees to the younger generation of Liberia. It’s a credit to Cuttington! During this 21st century, it is completely insane for the university to operate without a 24-hour electricity. It’s a dimwitted idea to short electricity off during nighttime on a college canpus. The college students were 101% correct to protest and demand the ouster of the president. If the beleaguered president is not shameful, he will learn a lesson.

    As matters relate to why previous Liberian government leaders act after an incident instead of before an incident occurs, I am at a loss. Liberia is a tropical country. As such, it rains like crazy every year. The rainy season will last for a long time. However, What’s interesting in this scenario is that when it rains, roads get very, very messy, food prices skyrocket, sometimes bridges crumble and sometimes malaria and other communicable diseases step in. One would think that to prevent roads and bridges from stalling the Liberian economy, the Public Utilities Ministry will act before the rainy season hits. Sadly, the bigwhigs act after disaster hits.

    The following key words are:
    1. Before and

    2. After.

  3. I tend to regret my decision of allowing my son to stay back home only because I wanted him to obtain an undergraduate from Cuttington. I was never a student of Cuttington, but the institution’s track records pushed me to taking this decision.
    With such embarrassing situation, and should it perpetuate, what could I offer to this child as answer to justify my decision.

  4. Dolo,
    Don’t come down hard on yourself my fellow diasporan. You did nothing wrong. You were looking out for your son when you sent him to the university. That’s what good parents do. If you want to plug your son out of Liberia at the present time, do it! It’s not late yet.

    It boggles my mind that our leaders sometimes make Renaissance era decisions. Let’s be realistic. A college or university president who orders electricity to be turned off at night on campus is a 15th to 18th century autocrat.

    There are questions to be asked:
    1. What is gained by shutting electricity
    off at night?

    2. Does the president want college
    students to flunk their tests?

    3. Is Cuttington university having a serious
    financial problem?

    Remember Liberia always in your prayer.

  5. I am very disappointed in Dr. Brown. His father was a great Bishop and I was proud to see him walk in his shoes. What disturbs me is why a great institution as Cuttington, has not seen the light and converted to solar power .

  6. I honesty believe that the members of CU Board have allowed politics to enter Cuttington University to the point that CU is almost like the University of Liberia. During my days at Cuttington in the mid 1980’s CUC was a great academic institution. I had classmates from Kenya, Ethiopia, Ghana, etc. One day, I asked my former classmate from Cameroon: Why did you choose Cuttington with a dusty campus? This guy told me that you Liberians might not value this institution, but in his country people in high places in government are Cuttington graduates and parents who can afford, usually send their children to Cuttington. He told me lots of students want to come to Cuttington if they could afford the tuition, room, and board because being a Cuttington Graduate opens lots of doors in his country. He told me that he was on a UN Scholarship to attend a university in the states, but he was too late because classes in the states had already started. He selected CUC and came to Liberia on UN scholarship.
    Cuttington is a private university and Cuttington has a big big rubber farm that is supposed to supplement the tuitions, fees, and pay salaries of faculty and staff, and also to run the two generators for 24 hrs sometimes of the yr. In the 1980’s, the light use to go off by 12 midnight and comes by 5 am. By that time some of us have already studied. However, if you didn’t complete your studying, we went to Phebe Hospital’s OPD where the light was on for 24 hrs. During the 1980’s CU board ensured that Liberian Government funding doesn’t become a major source of funding for the university. During the 1987 riot at CUC, the late President Doe told the students and the Board of CUC that if the late Dr. Spehen Yekerson was not reinstated as President of the university, he could cut CUC subsidies. Well, the Board said no to the president and he was very angry and promised to stop all subsidies to CUC. The president found out that the Liberian Government was not giving any subsidy at that time to CUC. Then, Doe decided to make Dr. Yekeson President of the University of Liberia. As a pay back to the CUC Board, the late Yekerson recruited our Chemistry professor, Dr. Shafee, Biology, Dr. Khonee, and other professors from CUC to go with him to the UL. What these professors didn’t know is there was no free housing in Monrovia and some UL faculties have not taken pay for months. When the CU Board installed the late Christian Baker as intrim President, he worked very hard to replace some of the professors that went with Dr. Yekeson at the UL. At this time, I believe the Episcopal Church of America asked the CU Board to resist Doe’s attempt to take over CUC. The reason, the late Yekeson was the point man for NDPL in Bong County, and the church didn’t want Yekeson to head CUC if he got involved in Liberian politics. On the other hand, CUC was financially supported by the church from America. The current science building on campus was built at this time in the 1980’s.
    The problem the new CU is having is that members of the Board and the Episcopal Church in Liberia have ceded Cuttington to the Liberian Government. The Liberian Government is responsible for the University of Liberia and other public learning institutions. CU is a private institution and must source funding from outside the government such as UN, WHO, EU, American Methodist, Episcopal, Lutheran, and other Christian institutions and international organizations. But I believe the decision the CU Board took way back to dissociate herself from the American Episcopal Church because the Episcopal Church of America admitted gay and lesbians in the church will continue to hurt Cuttington and the students. Because of this decision, the Episcopal Church in America stop all financial support to Cuttington. So it is time for the current Board Chair, Bishop Hurt to go back and plead and beg the Episcopal Church of America to allow the Episcopal Church of Liberia to be readmitted to their institution. In this way, Cuttington will survive again with financial support coming from America. CU Board sided with the African Episcopal Church on the gay and lesbian issue in the Episcopal Church, but the African Episcopal is not in the position to send millions of dollars to Cuttington. People will be what they have decided to be. No one can change it. Please save Cuttington University. I didn’t graduate from this institution because of the civil war, but I love my Cuttington.

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