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President 'being used as scapegoat'

By LAMECH JOHNSON

Tribune Staff Reporter

ljohnson@tribunemedia.net

THE College of the Bahamas’ president is being used as a scapegoat in the students-fee hike fiasco, which started when government announced the cutting of the college’s subsidy, Opposition Leader Dr Hubert Minnis told The Tribune yesterday.

photo

Betsy Vogel-Boze

Dr Minnis, speaking about the current dilemma at COB and the unionists’ call for the president to resign, claimed the decision by the college executive to raise student fees could not be blamed solely on Dr Betsy Vogel-Boze, as all decisions concerning the running of the college is done through the College Council headed by a chairman.

“Those fee hikes at the college would’ve never happened if the government did not cut their subsidy,” the Free National Movement leader said.

“As a result, the college executive had to make a decision. However, the executive didn’t make that decision alone as there is a college council with representatives and headed by a chairman. The Minister of Education would have access to the minutes of those meetings and the Prime Minister would also be informed,” hs said.

“They’re trying to use the president as a scapegoat but at the end of the day, the point is, if the government had not cut the subsidy, this whole dilemma would not be happening. And the prime minister repeatedly said he didn’t know about it? If he didn’t know, we as a country, are in serious trouble.’”

In late December 2012, the Ministry of Finance informed all public corporations and statutory entities that in view of the current economic situation and associated fiscal burden, the government would have to reduce their subsidies.

This was to include COB, which incurs an initial 10 per cent reduction taking effect in the 2013/2014 fiscal year, and an increased reduction of 25 per cent in total by the 2014/2015 fiscal year.

COB president Dr Vogel-Boze has said that it would be very challenging to move to university status while the organisation faces cuts to subsidies, but the college would make use of what is being given to the institution over the next two years while continuing the transition from college to university.

The Tribune understands that 70 per cent of the college’s annual operating budget, $49.6 million – as of June 30, 2012 according to COB’s most recent and accessible fact sheet – is allocated for salaries for 300 faculty members of the college.

The remaining 30 per cent is spent towards anything that is not salaries such as utility bills, maintenance, supplies, library acquisitions, scholarships, academic investment, among other things.

In the face of proposed subsidy cuts, COB’s senior administration recommended that tuition be raise to substitute for those cuts, which in turn raised the ire of the student body, resulting in protests against both the subsidy cut and the subsequent recommendation for the tuition increase,

The senior administration now, with the approval of the college council, has recommended a rise in student fees instead of tuition. The students did not take the recommendations well, posting up memos at the campus and in social media expressing their disapproval of the fee hikes.

COB’s union of students went to parliament on Wednesday to attend the proceedings but were barred by the police from entering.

Dr Minnis chastised the police for not allowing the students inside parliament noting that the manner in which the COB students were left outside and denied access to parliament was “appalling.”

“The students should not have been waiting in the hot sun for three hours and being denied access to a public place that only the Speaker of the House could deny them access to. The police saying the students were posing as a security risk to the parliament is rubbish. Who could be afraid of the students? Not the Opposition. Are the Government afraid of students?”

“It’s amazing where all their talk about believing and supporting the young people has gone. What happened yesterday to those students clearly shows how much they care.”

Dr Minnis said the College of the Bahamas, “and the students that attend the tertiary level institution, is the future of this country and its national development.”

“We have to do everything we can to ensure that they can succeed and not be shortchanged because of resources. We cannot shortchange them. The government should not have proposed those budget cuts in the first place.”

Prime Minister Perry Christie, on Wednesday, claimed that he did not know about the rise in fees until opening the newspaper when it was first reported.

“I called the Minister of Education and he indicated to me that he had no idea what was being spoken of and he had recently had meetings with the Chairman of the college, Mr Alfred Sears, and it was not brought to his attention.”

However the prime minister did note his awareness of the recommendations, but stressed those recommendations are before the College Council and not the government.

Comments

stillwaters 10 years, 11 months ago

Okaaaaaay........ I think I need to start a list of all of the PM's not aware of this matter' moments. This is truly becoming hilarious!!!!! How come he doesn't know about stuff that is being discussed on every corner of this small nation? Now, the education minister is having these moments too??

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by stillwaters

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Ironvelvet 10 years, 11 months ago

Okay. 2 important points here:

  1. Dr. Minnis is absolutely right that it is ridiculous that the President is being used a scapegoat because absolutely the EDUCATION MINISTER, whom I might mention has been heavily involved with understanding and the readjustment of finances at COB in order to as the minister put it, "make the school run more efficiently." It is equally ludicrous that the PM doesn't know about this since it was part of their campaign promises, and it is a huge part of budgeting in the government finances.

My second point goes to emphasize the importance of any governing official teetering away from intelligence and getting political.

  1. While Dr. Minnis means well, let's be frank here its clearly a good way for him to stand with the people who are up in arms with the increase of any cost at COB. However, let's get real, anyone with an iota of intelligence, and Dr. Minnis has alot of it, knows that at some point the tuition and other costs at COB would have needed to increase in order to as the PLP government desires, reach university status.

I think it is unusual that there are 300 faculty members at COB for a place that offers such few full 4 year bachelor degrees and that 70% of the budget is going to only their salaries. In that vein, I stand with the Education Minister that a lot of efficiency changes need to happen.

COB has multilevel problems. Being that we are charged as a nation trying to increase the development of our land we are also charged with increasing the quality and access of education. All levels must be addressed intelligently and without bias.

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TalRussell 10 years, 11 months ago

Oh really Comrade Leader Minnis. How can you call the PM a liar when we have it directly from the COB Council Chairman's mouth that he was too busy traveling to have informed the cabinet about the student fee increases. Or, maybe this prone to saying the silliest things leader thinks Sears may be the one not telling the truth?

No damn wonder many in his own red shirts party are starting to voice how his time as Hubert's "stand-in leader" is go'in be shorter then he thinks?

This man may be but only one of but several Cadre leaders to hold down the fort, until the "lawyer/fisherman" from Cooper's Town arrives back at the docks in Nassau Town, on board Abaco's Mail Boat?

Hell, who knows, if even with Hubert's many faults, can he still mount a serious battle against his former. trusted law partner? Although I am not as convinced as I was before that Hubert would want to risk another defeat at the polls?

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concernedcitizen 10 years, 11 months ago

when dat mail boat come round da point ,all we peolpe ga raise our hand ,ohh da mail da mail da mail

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jackflash 10 years, 11 months ago

Sears was too busy with the numbers man to tell the PM...

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