-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.
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.
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 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.
“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.”