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Cob Students Protest Over Council Response

By DANA SMITH

Tribune Staff Reporter

dsmith@tribunemedia.net

MORE than 100 students, staff and faculty members protested in front of the College of the Bahamas yesterday to draw the attention of the College Council which they say has turned a blind eye to their requests.

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STUDENTS protesting outside COB yesterday. Photo: Tim Clarke

The College of the Bahamas Union of Students (COBUS), the Union of Tertiary Educators of the Bahamas (UTEB), the Bahamas Public Service Union (BPSU), and the Public Managers Union (PMU) were up in arms because a letter written to the College Council - asking for a audience with them - had gone unanswered.

UTEB president Jennifer Isaacs-Dotson said the groups wanted to meet with the council to discuss their concerns with the college’s senior administrative team and decisions that team has made.

The unions have been at odds with COB’s administration since the government’s call for the college to streamline and cut out excesses.

Senior administrators proposed to the College Council an increase in student tuition of $25 per credit, per year, for two years and suspension of new programmes - among other things, according to COBUS.

Where the conflict arises, the unions claim, is none of them were consulted on the proposals and requests concerning their involvement have been ignored.

“We wrote the College Council a letter dated February 28 expressing our displeasure with the current leadership of the college, the fact that we have no confidence in this present leadership, talking about the proposed subvention cuts, the increased tuition, all of the things you’ve been seeing in the media and asking them to really meet with the four constituents of the college - the students, faculty, staff, (and) the middle managers,” Ms Isaacs-Dotson said yesterday.

“To date, we have not gotten a response from the council chairmen to our letter - not even acknowledging that the letter was received and saying that the matter is being dealt with.

“So hence this silent protest this morning is in protest of the fact that he has not acknowledged our letter or responded to our letter. Because we feel that if you receive a letter from the four major stakeholders of this institution then you should respond. The College Council is mandated to look after the interests of all of us and serve the constituents.”

Council Chairman Alfred Sears told The Tribune the council decided yesterday to hold a meeting next week to listen to their concerns.

“We had a council meeting this morning and the council decided to convene a special meeting to listen to the complainants and consider what the complaints are,” he said.

Acknowledging COBUS’s worries over spiked tuition costs and cut-backs to programmes, Mr Sears said: “The council has not finalised any position. The president and the senior team were engaged in a consultation and have put a number of proposals to the council but no determination has been made with respect to cutting anything.”

He added: “The Ministry of Finance circulated a document to all public corporations asking them to submit proposals to save costs and make suggestions of ways to cut expenditures. And that is due to the economic condition of the country. COB as a public institution was one of the institutions,” he said.

“It’s incumbent upon all public institutions to see how the expenditure can be curtailed given the national recession.”

Earlier this week all the stakeholders joined together at a press conference and hit out at COB’s senior administrative team.

The UTEB criticised the college’s administration for showing ‘no interest’ in ‘genuine’ co-operation with stakeholders and for not making financial documents – COB’s budget, revenue, expenditures and executive appointments – available when requested.

The BPSU said the current financial crisis at COB was just the latest in a string of “arbitrary crippling, harmful administrative practices and irresponsible leadership decisions” that are destroying morale at the college.

The BPSU said major concerns include expired industrial agreements for staff and recent promotions.

The PMU said they were invited to meet with the college’s president to “assist in helping to dig the institution out of a financial bind” but were not provided with the college’s last audited statement.

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