UL Crisis Deepens as President Boakai Intervenes to Address Leadership and Staff Concerns

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UL Crisis Deepens as President Boakai Intervenes to Address Leadership and Staff Concerns
UL Crisis Deepens as President Boakai Intervenes to Address Leadership and Staff Concerns

Africa-Press – Liberia. Prior to the Board meeting, a crisis erupted among the administration UL faculty and staff Associations, primarily due to unresolved salary issues and other major concerns.
The University of Liberia (UL) is descending into a crisis, prompting swift intervention from President Joseph Boakai. On Monday, at President Boakai’s directive, the Board of Trustees of the University convened and established a search committee for a new university president and to address emerging issues affecting the institution.

A statement issued by the Vice President for University Relations stated that during an extraordinary session on the Capitol Hill Campus, the Board deliberated on forming the Search Committee. They also addressed concerns raised by the University of Liberia Faculty Association (ULFA) and the University of Liberia Staff Association (ULSA) in their joint resolution.

During the meeting, the concerns of all university stakeholders, including faculty, staff, and students, were discussed. The Board also received a report from the current President, Dr. Julius Sarwolo Nelson, Jr., covering the university’s academic and student affairs, institutional development, planning, and its endowment with the Trustees of Donations for Education in Liberia (TDEL).

Following these discussions, Board Chair Senator Numene T.H. Bartekwa established a Mediation Committee with a five-point Terms of Reference. The committee is tasked with addressing issues raised by stakeholders and the UL administration and is mandated to meet with ULFA, ULSA, and student leadership on Tuesday, June 18, 2024, to find an amicable solution.

The committee members include:

– Dr. Al-Hassan Conteh, former President of the University of Liberia (Chair)

– Dr. Jarso Maley Jallah, Minister of Education (Co-Chair)

– Mr. Richard B. Falla, Government Affairs Manager, Firestone Liberia

– Hon. Thomas Romeo Quioh, Chair, Committee on Education and Public Administration, House of Representatives

– Hon. Dixon W. Seboe, Chair, Ways, Means, Finance and Development Planning, House of Representatives

– Dr. Augustine Konneh, Senior Advisor to the Visitor of the University (Ex-Officio)

The UL Board of Trustees has appealed for calm while the Ad-Hoc Committee meets with all stakeholders to ensure a smooth and effective resolution process.

The faculty and staff’s disenchantment

Prior to the Board meeting, a crisis erupted among the administration UL faculty and staff Associations, primarily due to unresolved salary issues and other major concerns. Over the weekend, ULFA and ULSA issued a joint statement demanding the immediate removal of President Nelson and his officers, along with the payment of salaries and provision of buses for the campus.

In recent times, the [UL] Administration has generated millions of U.S. dollars, but students still lack chairs, and the working environment and teaching materials for faculty members are poor. If we do not stand together, we will perish as fools. We deserve better treatment.” Said Dr. Edna Johnny, President, UL Faculty Association.

Faculty and staff have since ceased teaching until their demands are met.

This crisis coincides with the university’s preparation for final exams and its 104th Graduation Convocation, initially scheduled for August. The decision by ULFA drew immediate attention from President Boakai, leading to the directive to the Board of Trustees to formalize the search for new leadership.

The UL administration responded to ULFA’s strike with a warning to employees to resume work. In a statement from the Vice President for University Relations on Sunday, the administration emphasized the need for all academic and administrative duties to continue, warning that unauthorized absences of 10 days or more would be considered a resignation.

“Toward achieving this goal, the UL Administration informs stakeholders, staff, students, and the general public of the continuation of its normal working and academic activities infusing teaching and learning on all campuses of the University,” the UL administration said.

“Accordingly, the UL Administration encourages all legally employed faculty to continue their regular activities on the University campuses and reminds them that all unauthorized absence without excuse for ten working days is tantamount to resignation,” it added.

SUP Divided Over ULFAA Action

Meanwhile, the Student Unification Party (SUP), the campus-based political group, is divided over the ULFA action. The faction led by H. Kwein W. Kwein opposes ULFA’s decision and supports the administration’s call for employees to resume work.

The Student Unification Party (SUP), the campus-based political group, is divided over the ULFA action.

“We want to assert here in a very categoric tone that the Student Unification Party calls for the completion of the semester by every means possible. In this case, we acknowledged that the decision taken by ULFA’s General Assembly to abstain from lectures is a result of the government’s recklessness not to adhere to its plight which should be looked into genuinely with keen care and attention,” he added.

In contrast, the faction led by Kelvin Gbantuah supports ULFA’s stance, demanding a forensic audit of the university to address transparency and development issues.

“The University of Liberia, which is believed to have received a very good outturn in the last fiscal year, 2023, is capable enough to transform or modernize the University of Liberia, and it is visible that the institution still lies in ruins and tatters,” Ab-Lua Tuah argued.

He further called on President Boakai, to make a quick intervention to ensure that school reopens.

He added: “The students are the backbone of the society; as such, they need to be prepared in a conducive and decent learning environment. The school is the only place where the students get decent preparation from.”

The ongoing crisis has not only disrupted academic activities but has also created tension among students, faculty, and staff. Both factions of SUP have issued separate statements reflecting their positions on the crisis, adding to the complexity of the situation.

As the Mediation Committee begins its work, the university community hopes for a swift resolution to ensure the continuation of academic activities and the successful completion of the semester.

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