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Orville Taylor | CMU: Our future at stake | Commentary

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I make no bones about the lack of flesh on this measure called the Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI), but one purpose it serves is to tell us what the nation feels about the level of corruption in this country.

As I’ve consistently indicated, there are consequences which lead to stiff election challenges when the public believes that their government is corrupt. Doubtless, the CPI does not measure the actual level of venality in the nation. If we want to do so, we have to ask direct questions about whether the respondents have actually paid a bribe or have any knowledge of it being paid.

Regarding the structures of government, there are those who raise the argument that the ‘Brogad’ administration of Prime Minister Andrew Holness has committed far too many. Of course, this includes the nasty Petrojelly scandals and the myriad misdeeds of former Minister of Education Ruel Reid and his ‘paarie’ Professor Fritz Pinnock, beleaguered head of the Caribbean Maritime University (CMU).

This CMU issue is as difficult to wash away as the old indelible pencil marks, which the Jamaica Omnibus Service conductors used to make. In those days, attempt to erase any innocuous impression by the lead point would turn it into a deep purple, which would overwhelm even the most ardent of Kingston College supporters.

Indeed, if we are committed to the rules of natural justice, due process and transparency, we cannot take the view that Pinnock and Reid and their ‘co-chargees’ are criminals. True, when a male bird sounds off in the morning and crows, we conclude that it is a cock which is rising and at a minimum, there is something very fowl going on. However, until a court of law convicts them and says that their actions were criminal according to the laws of Jamaica, then they are not guilty of anything, including stupidity and barefacedness.

There is a damning Auditor General’s Report which has reached the public, relating to the lack of proper governance, lack of accountability and things which look as if some residents of the correctional facilities baulk over them carrying long bags. Any reasonable man, woman or child would conclude that the main protagonists wore gloves of two sided sticky tape and sucked the milch cow, the CMU like a five-year-old child with separation issues.

RULES MUST BE UPHELD

Government and universities have rules, procedures and ordinances which bind every jack man and jenny woman to them, irrespective of the status of the actors. No one, not the minister, not the president, chancellor, vice-chancellor, principal, chief education officer or permanent secretary, can do as he or she pleases, as inconvenient as the rules might be.

In a country where freedom of the press is one of our best attributes, we need to be assured that not only all information is available to the public, but more important, that checks and balances are being adhered to and are working.

This CMU saga is a big deal because it threatens the very fabric of our democracy and puts at risk the future of an entire generation of students. To the best of my knowledge, neither Reid, Pinnock nor any of the other chargees have ever attended the CMU and thus, do not have anything to lose when the university loses its credibility. Even if these persons are not convicted of any felony, they have tainted the reputation of the institution so much that the students and graduates are in peril of losing everything they have worked for.

You see, not every element of poor accountability, deceit and disregard of ordinances and rules amounts to criminal misconduct. However, they may create so much doubt that the institution loses not only its credibility and integrity, but also the accreditation by the appropriate bodies.

SCARY CORRELATION

The Anglophone CARICOM has the lowest tertiary-level enrolment and certification in the hemisphere. Despite The University of the West Indies (UWI) now boasting membership in the top four per cent of universities globally, many young people, who are in the same age cohort of 70 per cent of homicide victims and their killers, have never walked into a college. There is a scary correlation.

In 1987, the University Council of Jamaica (UCJ) was established to ensure that all degree-granting institutions meet a minimum standard. At the time, the UWI was not on its radar because it was tried and true. It is a different world now, because there no exceptions and no privileging.

The CMU has accreditation for several of its programmes by the UCJ and is at stage three of eight along the journey to join the UWI, the University of Technology and the Northern Caribbean University as being ‘institutionally accredited’. This kind of accreditation is a big deal and not a chicken process. Pinnock and Reid may have committed an irreparable foul-up.

For accreditation, universities need to meet a number of criteria. Among these is the qualification of the academics and their appointment processes. Thus, starting at the top, we want to know where the lecturers got their degrees from and how Pinnock got elevated to the lofty heights of professor.

At UWI, in the past there was a process, led by the Vice Chancellor, when the members of the University Appointments’ Committee could, based on the imposing work of a candidate, promote him/her to professor ‘by acclamation’.

Sir Roy Augier, who received the Chancellor’s medal a week ago, was one given such an honour and no one, unborn, alive or dead, could question Sir Roy’s stature and eligibility. However, given the fact that powerful men and women can do the kinds of things which the CMU is revealing, thankfully, the 70-plus old university now has inviolable ordinances, which not even the Chancellor can disregard.

No stone must be left unturned at CMU, whatever the verdict be. Moreover, the House of Representative must also be very careful in obeying the rules in tabling the report.

Our future is at stake here.

– Dr Orville Taylor is head of the Department of Sociology at the University of the West Indies, a radio talk-show host, and author of ‘Broken Promises, Hearts and Pockets’. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and tayloronblackline@hotmail.com.

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