The academic instabilities that have marred the University of Liberia as a result of continuous demonstrations and protest by students of the premier state run university might surface at the William V. S. Tubman University in the southeastern region if proper care is not taken.
This potentially troubling situation looming at TU is emerging as news emanating from Maryland County reveals that there is a plot to obstruct the May 31 commencement convocation of the of the university.
This is because the new president of the university, Dr. Edward Lama Wonkeryor, who has been appointed by President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf to succeed outgoing president Dr. Elizabeth Davis-Russell, is not a native of Maryland County.
Speaking at a press conference in Monrovia on Tuesday, Robert F. Neal, II, Assistant Professor of Finance at the TU’s College of Management and Administration, said the citizens are planning this mass protest as an effort to intimidate President Sirleaf to rescind her decision and heed to their demand.
He said some influential leaders of the county are orchestrating a mass demonstration that would obstruct the ensuing May commencement exercises of the university.
“This plot is being masterminded by some influential stakeholders of Maryland County, who have vowed to see that the President rescinds the appointment,”
The county leaders are however demanding someone from the county or a southeasterner to be appointed.
He disclosed that series of mass citizens’ meeting were held on Monday in Pleebo where the participants resolved to carry out the protest on the date of the graduation. “
Dr. Wonkeryor was selected through a search committee
“Some leaders of the county are inciting young people in the county to stage a mass protest so that the graduation ceremony will not go on. And this I think is very unacceptable because TU is not a property of Maryland neither the Southeast, but the country,” Prof. Neal said, adding that the act that created
TU can be liked to that of UL. “These are national institutions supported directly by government. These are not community colleges here.”
Reports also revealed that academic activities might come to a standstill if the demand of the citizenry is not adhered to by President Sirleaf. The citizens are contending that the new TU president was handpicked by the outgoing president, Dr. Russell – a statement Neal bitterly differs with.
He indicating that these people are misinformed, indicating that the process was free, fair, transparent and comprehensive. He said this is not the case, rather
He said the argument that only Marylanders should head TU places Marylanders in other parts of the country in a very dangerous situation. “So are we saying that Marylanders across the country who are qualified should only work in Maryland? Our constitution provide employment rights to everyone” “I think what we are giving birth to here is pushing for a kind of xenophobic situation here that tomorrow we will be pushing other residents out of the county.”
He said it is regrettable that some of his brothers who are being misinformed will support such action.
Mr. Neal, a native of the county-who hails from Pleebo Sodokan district, said that it is unfortunate that citizens of the county would think that the university president should by force come from the county.
“TU does not belong to us as Marylanders; we are only privileged to have it in our county,” Neal said. “While should we be excluding other Liberians who are qualified to be appointed? This, I think is discriminatory and we must desist from these things if our country is to progress.”
He disclosed Dr. Wonkeryor was selected by the Senate Faculty of the university out of eight candidates who applied after the position was advertized for close to a year.
He said if President Sirleaf succumbed to the citizens’ pressure and reverses her decision, it would serve as a bad precedent.
The stakeholders have planned to do all they can to ensure that Dr. Wonkeryor does not take up his post.
The planned demo is being reportedly masterminded by some officials of the county including lawmakers and local leaders, who want to ensure that the new President of the State-run University comes from the county.
When asked to identify some of the officials that are against the appointment of Dr. Wonkeryor, Neal said, “It is no hidden secret. Some of these people are Senator Dan Morais, Representative Bhofal Chambers and, we are also being told, Representative James Binney. These are the lawmakers that are calling for the university to be headed by a Marylander or a Southeasterner,” he said, describing their argument as weak and out of order.
“I’m not granting this press conference because I favor Dr. Wonkeryor, but because we the people of Maryland are peaceful and tolerant people and I don’t want the image of the county and its people tarnished,” he said.
Dr. Wonkeryor, Provost at Cuttington University, was recently appointed by President Sirleaf after he was selected by TU’s Board of Trustee.
He was one of eight applicants vetted by a search committee who comprised of representatives from the Commission on Higher Education, President Sirleaf’s office and others.
Dr. Wonkeryor edged out Dr. Emmanuel K. Bailey, who was the other finalist. Some of the candidates that were vetted include Dr. Isaac Adetunde, one of the Deans at TU, Dr. Zechariah Gaye of Grand Bassa County Community College and Dr. Anthony Woart, a Marylander based in the United States.
When contacted via telephone, Senator Morais told this reporter that his office should be respected and not anyone just calling and talking about accusation like he is a little boy.
The Maryland Senator, who neither confirmed nor denied the allegation, said, “My young man I’m a Senator and I need to be respected,” adding that he is not answerable to the reporter, “so you can go ahead to do whatsoever you want to do.
He continued, “Young man, I respect you and respect the paper that you work for, so please treat me with respect too. And if I even asked you now, who is accusing me you will not be able to tell me, but all [you] can say is allegation, allegation.” He then hung up the phone.