President George Manneh Weah will serve as the commencement speaker at the 57th convocation of the Cuttington University (CU) tomorrow on the university’s main campus in Suakoko, Bong County, CU’s interim president, Fr. James Tamba, has confirmed.
For this year’s commencement program, the three campuses of the university at Suakoko, Kakata and Monrovia, will converge on the main campus where over 700 students will be awarded graduate, undergraduate and associate degrees in several fields of study, Fr. James Tamba confirmed to the Daily Observer via mobile phone on Tuesday.
“Before he delivers the commencement address, the university will confer on President Weah an honorary doctorate degree,” said Fr. Tamba.
The prelate ascended to the helm of CU following a series of student protests that engulfed the university in May this year, leading to the suspension of its president, Dr. Herman Browne. The CU interim president is also the dean of the College of Theology and Chaplain of the university.
Reports indicate that the President’s preferment is a clever way of inviting him to see firsthand financial constraints facing the university, amid the huge cuts in subsidies from the government and the Episcopal Diocese.
It is reported that the government is indebted to the CU in substantial arrears, including what some government ministries owe the institution in scholarships for hundreds of students.
In the 2015-2016 fiscal budget year, CU received US$1.1 million, an amount reduced in the 2016-2017 budget year to US$700,000, and the institution was allotted US$300,000 in the 2017-2018 fiscal years.
In spite of the decrease, it has also been extremely difficult for the institution to access its subsidy, which prior to the numerous cuts experienced in recent years, was about 50 percent of the operational cost of the university, a member of the CU faculty, Dr. Timothy D. Nevin, told the Daily Observer yesterday.
The institution has also experienced a reduction in student enrollment, especially in 2014, during the Ebola crisis and the 2017 elections, which has helped to also exacerbate its financial crisis. The total enrollment last semester, according to authorities, was 1,350 from the usual 2,000 plus on the main campus in Suakoko.
Dr. Nevin said, “what CU receives from government now is just 10 percent of the overall operational cost, because this huge cut, coupled with the drop in student enrollment, has brought terrible hardship on the institution, contributing to the recent protests that engulfed the university.”
He added, “what CU used to receive from government covered about 50 percent of its operational cost, but this is no more the case, because what the institution receives now is just ten percent of its operational costs. These situations represent huge financial burdens for the CU,” Prof. Nevin noted.
Dr. Nevin also noted that because of the economic constraints that the country is experiencing, the fees charged graduates was reduced from US$400 to US$300. “Though this may still be seen as huge, I think it is a great help for the graduates,” he said.
Many believe that CU’s preferment of President Weah is a result of the manner in which he helped resolve the recent fracas on the main campus that nearly paralyzed normal learning activities.
The Board of trustees swiftly intervened and brought relatively calm to the campus, but this was short lived after the Board Chairman, Bishop Jonathan B. B. Hart, reneged on its promises to the student body and the faculty.
The protests by students and faculty continued a week after the Board’s intervention, prompting the President to intervene. The President sent a delegation that included the ministers of Education, Justice and others to resolve the prolonged protest.
Justice Minister F. Musa Dean and Education Minister Ansu Sonii, shortly after they were commissioned by the President, led a team of mediators on the CU campus to resolve the standoff after the Board of Trustees made two fruitless attempts.
Others in attendance at that meeting were former Justice Minister, Cllr. Frederick Cherue; LNP Deputy Inspector General for Operations, Robert Budy and the president of the CU Alumni Association, Charles B. Allen, Jr.
“We the government, have the responsibility to ensure that citizens remain at peace with each other,” Sonii said.
Commencement speakers, the world over, have delivered pointed, memorable, and profoundly inspirational messages, keyed to the graduates and grounded in the wider reality of positive change — speeches happily and necessarily relevant, in fact and in promise, to all humanity.
Based on this, many are expecting President Weah’s address tomorrow to be very captivating, taking into consideration the history surrounding his ascendancy to the pinnacle of political authority.
Many know that Weah’s rise to prominence is a life inspiring journey that would give every youth the urge to persevere in seeking a better future. Many of the graduates, according to Dr. Nevin, are poised to listen to some of the intriguing life stories of their President.
“It is an honor for any university and any graduate to have the President address their commencement convocation. CU is also noted for this so it is not that strange too,” Dr. Nevin, who has been an Assistant Professor of History since 2015, said.