The University of Liberia (UL) has been in crisis since last November, primarily because of the unholy alliance, violence-prone between the faculty and students.
Underneath the whole debacle (disaster) is corruption and widespread, longstanding and sustained malpractices on the UL’s campuses, perpetrated by faculty members who seem bent on maintaining a culture of corruption. This has over the past several years, even decades, undermined and dealt a lethal blow to the credibility of the nation’s highest institution of learning.
It is widely known throughout Liberia that many, many UL graduates can hardly read or write a straight sentence. This is the general experience of employers, including this newspaper, the Daily Observer.
What have been the problems? First, the UL faculty and administrators have used the breakdown of law, order and discipline in Liberia since the 1980s to institute a culture of corruption on campus that has compromised the very admissions policy of the institution. For a very long time it has been an accepted norm that no one enters UL purely on academic merit. Either you pay money under the table to enter or your name will not come up, no matter how well you completed high school.
The corruption poison soon spread into the grading system at UL, where if the student had nothing to give in return for grades, whether money or sex or both, the student will fail. A few years ago, even after a widely experienced and credible academic, Dr. Emmet Dennis, former
provost of Rutgers University, was appointed UL president, he was forced to cancel, immediately following graduation, several degrees awarded. The problem: some of the “graduates” had hardly done three years of study, and many had not been seen on campus for several years!
But that wasn’t all. University faculty have downplayed books on campus, because they are too busy pushing their own PAMPHLETS which they DEMAND that the students BUY before they can sit in class. No pamphlet, no seat, no assignment, no test, no grade. What are the poor, hapless students to do but to succumb to this tyranny of a corrupt and incompetent faculty? What this system, in place over many years, has done is to sink the University of Liberia to historically its lowest depth and to make it the laughing stock of Liberian academia.
But there is yet another serious underlying factor: a senior UL administrator told the Daily Observer yesterday that TWO THIRDS OF UL FACULTY ARE ONLY BACHELOR DEGREE HOLDERS!
Even the current head of the faculty association, Clifford Young, holds a BA and a local Master’s, but remains a junior member of the faculty. But he successfully got himself elected their president.
It is he and his cohorts that connived with a band of unruly students to violently destabilize the UL on November 22, 2013, provoking its indefinite closure.
Now they are demanding the reopening of the university on their own terms: the current provost, Dr. Wede Brownell, the very woman who unearthed and put a stop to so much of the corruption and malpractices on campus, must resign.
And where would that lead the UL? To business as usual, and further sinking into the abyss.
This nation CANNOT sit supinely and allow that to happen. The UL is the pride of every Liberian, UL alumnus or not. Remember, it was established as Liberia College in 1862 by our first President, Joseph Jenkins Roberts, and elevated to university level by President W.V.S. Tubman in 1950.
So what is the way forward?
Because of the lax in administration in the entire country since 1980, but most especially during the war years, government has paid little attention to the training of university teachers. The time has come for the Visitor of the University and the entire Liberian government to institute a crash program to train at least a hundred university teachers, in the sub-region and abroad, to restore the credibility of the UL.
Within three years many of these faculty members should have returned to serve. Meanwhile, GOL should approach friendly neighboring countries such as Nigeria, Ghana, Cote d’Ivoire and Senegal seeking academic aid to beef up the UL faculty.
But this one thing MUST not happen: the UL should not be thrown back to wolves, to further cement its ultimate destruction and doom. NO! That MUST not be allowed to happen.