Suacoco, Bong County – Cuttington University President Dr. Herman B. Browne last week apologized to students, faculty and staff for the circumstances that triggered the strike that resulted in his suspension in May.
Report by Selma Lomax, [email protected]
Browne returned to campus after the university’s board reinstated him, following a three-month suspension.
He spoke last week Friday at an assembly in the Epiphany Chapel attended by nearly 400 people, including students, faculty and board members.
“I am sorry for all that happened,” Browne said. “The Browne you knew three months is not the same Browne here today.’’
The board’s decision came following several days of protest by students who voiced concerns about inadequate electricity, bad labor practices, poor management and dictatorial leadership.
They demanded Browne’s removal.
The faculty supported the students, and also asked for a 100-percent increase in salary.
To calm the situation, Bishop Jonathan B.B. Hart, who chairs the board of trustees, suspended Browne and appointed Rev. Father James Tamba, interim president.
Rev. Tamba presided over the 2018 commencement.
After Browne left campus, the board, the government headed by Justice Minister Musa Dean and Education Minister Ansu Sonii, met with students, faculty and staff to find out the root of the problem and find a solution.
During last week’s assembly, Browne promised to start a new chapter with the students, faculty and staff with the goal of moving the university forward.
He said he would proceed cautiously when making decisions, ensuring that the faculty and staff are fully involved and engaged.
“I didn’t consider faculty members on key decisions,’’ he said. “I promise to consult them in making decisions. We didn’t communicate with people in the decision making of the university and we will right the wrong.”
Brown thanked faculty members for acknowledging the decision of the board to reinstate him.
“Thank you very much for listening to the board,’’ he said. Cuttington is all we have.”
He assured the faculty that no one will be disciplined or penalized for their role in the strike that led to his suspension.
“All of the things that happened are behind us now,” he said. “In the spirit of reconciliation, I will not witch hunt anyone for what happened.’’
Browne said he will pay attention to acts of disorderly conduct, but noted that ‘’I will give everybody a second chance in this new phrase.’’
Benoni Urey, secretary of the university’s board of trustees, urged the students, faculty and staff to put their differences aside and work with Browne in the interest of Cuttington.
“I feel bad that the institution that made us today is in the news for the wrong reasons,” said Urey, an alumnus of Cuttington. ‘’We must sacrifice for Cuttington University. The university is for everyone of us.”
He told the faculty that they have a right to make recommendations, but noted that the university does not have money to address all their concerns.
“You go up and come down if the university had money things would not have been like this on campus,’’ he said.
He said the decision to reinstate Browne was to avoid closing the university for a semester as the board probes some of the faculty claims of corruption.
The board hired an auditing firm to probe the allegations, Urey said. The findings won’t be released for four months.
“How can we keep the university closed for three or four months while awaiting the findings from the audit? Urey asked.
The board won’t force any faculty member who opposes Browne’s reinstatement to continue teaching at Cuttington.
“We are not forcing anyone to remain at Cuttington, but we are appealing to you people to remain with Cuttington,” Urey said.
Students began returning to campus last week.
Registration was supposed to end last Friday, but Urey said the registration has been extended to another week.
Bong County Superintendent Esther Walker lauded Rev. Tamba for serving as interim president.
She also thanked the faculty for listening to the board and embracing the decision for Browne’s return.
The county leadership, she said, is working with the Bong Legislative Caucus to increase Cuttington’s subsidy.
Some students also embraced Browne’s return. They said they are now willing to work with Browne because he has acknowledged his mistakes.
Sam Thompson, a junior student majoring in sociology, said he is pleased that students and the faculty have reached a truce.
“This is the best for everyone,’’ he said. “This is a win-win situation. In as much as we have some problems with Browne, we are optimistic that his return will bring some changes to the university.”
Thompson hopes that students and faculty will dialogue with the administration when they have concerns instead of initiating a strike.
“Dialogue is the best way out rather than violence,’’ he said. “Violence doesn’t help the situation, it only escalates problems. We have learned a lot from the almost two weeks of protest.”
Isaac Borbor, a freshman student, also majoring in sociology, called on the faculty to put behind the past and turn a new page.
“I think is time that all parties meet and trash out their differences,” he said. “We want to learn unhindered. “
Barbara Kennedy, dean of the business college, said the situation that resulted in the strike is not unique to Browne’s administration.
She urged her colleagues to see reason to return to work for the supreme interest of the university.
Lerpolu Tolon, president of Cuttington University Faculty Association, said the board failed to listen to the faculty’s concerns.
Asked whether the faculty will return to class, Torlon said: “No!”
The faculty, he said, maintains its stance that they will not return to the classroom until Browne steps down.
Kusee Armstrong, an instructor, who participated in the strike, said faculty members are resolved not to return to class until Browne is removed.
But some students are breaking away from the faculty.
Ernest N. Kpoo, acting president of the student association and one of the ringleaders of the strike, said students no longer support the faculty because they want to continue their education.
“I think what should be key is to see how they can work with Browne, rather than insisting on his removal,” he said. “Our education is important. We can’t afford to sit for another semester.”