Students want Dr. Browne out
Violence erupted on the Suakoko campus of Cuttington University (CU) on Tuesday, May 15, when hundreds of disaffected students, staged protest action demanding the removal of CU president Herman Browne due to what they say is the administration’s alleged failure to provide 24-hour electricity. The protesting students forcibly occupied the administration building and the university’s main entrance in Suakoko District, Bong County, thus paralyzing normal business and academic activities on the campus.
The students described the absence of electricity on the school’s campus as “administrative negligence” and insisted they would continue their protest until the president, Dr. Herman Browne resigns from the institution.
The students set roadblocks at the main entrance and other entrances to the university. They also burned tires, thus preventing their colleagues and some faculty and support staff from entering or leaving the campus.
A protesting student told the Daily Observer that, “unless the administration restores electricity and internet services on the campus, Dr. Browne and his faculty will not know peace, neither will they see normal activities on the campus.”
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, which they said has prevented them, especially the boarding students, from accessing the internet and studying at night.
Graduating seniors, who are scheduled to start writing their final exams this week have suspended class attendance and many of the lecturers and professors have left the campus fearing the wrath of the angry protesters.
There has been no official statement from the CU Administration regarding the students’ action. The administration building was, however, besieged by furious students holding aloft placards that read, ‘Dr. Browne must resign; Dr. Browne has failed the institution.’
“We will not give in to any threat or pressure no matter where it comes from. Our quest is that Dr. Browne and his surrogates must leave CU,” some of the aggrieved students demanded. They continued “many of us have resolved to call on Dr. Browne to step aside, because we want him to resign since he is not doing well to meet the demands of the student body, including the demands from the Cuttington Junior College in Kakata, Margibi County, the Graduate School of Professional Studies in Monrovia and the Cuttington main campus in Suakoko.”
Some students said Dr. Browne does not relate to the student leadership or even the teaching staff because he has an authoritarian style of leadership.
Meanwhile, a team of police officers led by the regional police commander, Morris Teamah went to the campus and took Dr. Browne to “safety” without making any arrest or making any attempt to engage the leadership of the protesting students. Over the past months, the campus has seen series of demonstrations one of which was about salaries.
It may be recalled that lecturers and professors on Thursday, September 14, 2017, laid down their chalks in demand of two months’ salary arrears which they claimed the Browne administration owed them.
Speaking from the Cuttington campus in Suakoko last night, Dr. Browne told the Daily Observer in a telephone interview that he was not aware of the electricity issues raised by the students. According to him, the campus gets about nine hours of electricity every day, intermittently. The electricity is on from 10am to noon; 1pm to 4pm and 7pm to 11pm, he said.
“The only issues we know are from the faculty,” he said, suggesting that students are somehow in sympathy with the faculty demands.
“The faculty are demanding things that have to do with money, especially for supervising and examining theses,” Dr. Browne said. “We paid them 50% and promised to pay the balance before graduation.” According to him, many of the faculty had announced that they would boycott the theses examinations unless they got paid. “But the main demand by the faculty was for their salaries to be increased by 100% across all campuses,” he added.
However, Dr. Browne noted that at the Cuttington Graduate School in Monrovia, the examining of theses went on as scheduled, while at the Cuttington Kakata campus, there was no disturbance. “So it must have been mainly the Suakoko faculty,” he said.
“Much of this has to do with my leadership; they think there must be a problem with me — that I’m withholding money and just don’t want to pay them. I told them since it’s about me, let the board of trustees get involved. Two of our trustees, including chairman, are coming up Wednesday morning. I just hope the faculty will give them the courtesy.
“The instructors have received their salaries up to the Month of April, so we do not owe any arrears. They just do not want to be held accountable to teaching outcomes. They feel I’m giving more work for the same amount of pay,” Dr. Browne said.