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Smith For Cob President

EDITOR, The Tribune.

My family and I share a deep connection to the College of The Bahamas. My mother was a founding faculty member when the College began in 1974. My six brothers were each students at COB. I, too, am a former COB student, having studied Economics and Physics there as the 2001-2002 All Bahamas Merit Scholar.

When I came back to visit COB during my senior year in college at Duke University, the campus was alive with excitement. The old passport office had been converted into a world-class bookstore, rivalling the bookstore of Stanford University. The old CDU building had been re-fashioned into an academic space with multi-media-equipped seminar rooms and faculty and administrative offices. These renovations represented a $4m investment in the future University of The Bahamas.

In addition to the infrastructural upgrades, I also saw optimism in the eyes of students and faculty as they spoke about the changes that were happening at the College. A big part of the reason for this excitement was the effective leadership of then COB president, Dr Rodney Smith. In the year that he served as president he executed these changes and many more. With good reason, the advisory search committee has recommended to the government that Dr Smith be named the next president of COB.

Dr Smith is eminently qualified to lead the College into university status given his years of experience as a university administrator at Hampton University, which is now ranked the top HBCU in the US. Furthermore, as president of Ramapo College, Dr Smith participated in infrastructure development projects that totalled $80m. Moreover, Dr Smith possesses world-class academic credentials, earning his doctorate in Education from Harvard University on an OAS scholarship.

The biggest obstacle to Dr Smith’s re-appointment as the new president of COB is the accusations of plagiarism that led him to resign during his first term of the presidency. Dr Smith spoke directly to this issue at a public forum on campus. He acknowledged the error that he made when he read a graduation speech that was written for him without first confirming that the sources cited in the speech were referenced by the person who had written the speech for him.

US President Barack Obama made the same mistake when he used the words of his friend, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick, in the context of a campaign speech, without proper attribution. President Obama recognised his error and gave appropriate credit to Governor Patrick. His mistake did not prevent him from winning the US presidency in 2008.

Similarly, when I was a graduate student at Harvard University, two of its celebrated law school professors were implicated in plagiarism scandals in which parts of books that they had written bore striking similarity to the work of other scholars. Both men owned up to their mistakes, which turned out to be genuine errors of research assistants, as opposed to intentional intellectual theft. Both men continue to serve Harvard University and have made enormous contributions to the university’s law school faculty since.

It is important to note that president Smith was not accused of plagiarism with respect to his academic work, as was the case with the two Harvard professors; rather, his error was an unattributed quote in a graduation speech. This is a meaningful distinction that has not got the attention that it deserves in discussions about his suitability to lead the College into university status.

If the US electorate can forgive President Barack Obama for a mistake similar to the one committed by Dr Smith; and if Harvard University, considered by many to be the paragon of academic excellence, can forgive two of its law school professors for accusations of academic plagiarism that were far more serious than the plagiarism charges that Dr Smith faced, then COB bears no shame in considering Dr Smith for re-appointment to the College’s presidency.

Just as President Obama recovered from his mistake, I am confident that Dr Smith can do likewise and lead the College of The Bahamas with distinction and excellence as its next president.

PETER BLAIR

Nassau,

July 29, 2014

Comments

NewJersey 4 months, 3 weeks ago

Actually Mr Blair, as for his 'expertise'. If you do some research you will find that he was forced to resign his position in New jersey due to a vote of 'No Confidence'....It's available...all you have to do is look....

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sheeprunner12 4 months, 3 weeks ago

We will all be witnesses to the effective leadership capabilities that Doc Smith will bring to the soon to be University of The Bahamas and how it interacts with its satellite campuses in GB, BAMSI, Exuma etc. ................. We will see ................... Peter come back home and join the faculty as well................. Doc Smith and COB and the country needs you.

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letitbeme 4 months, 3 weeks ago

Dr. Rodney Smith is the right Bahamian man for the job. He had COB moving, and rapidly heading towards University status. Peter presented a strong case as to why he should be given another chance. Thank you Peter! We all, when we make a blunder, wants to be given another chance, but when it comes to somebody else, we can be so unforgiving. Dr. Smith is one of the many brilliant Bahamian men being utilized by foreign institutions and other entities. Why can't we welcome him home and utilize his wealth of knowledge and expertise in making our College a University of world class standards of excellence. I BELIEVE IN DR. SMITH AND HIS ABILITY TO GET THE JOB DONE!!! GO DR. SMITH!!

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CuriousAbaconian 4 months, 3 weeks ago

When I was a student in 2004-5, Dr. Smith was indeed the recipient of a "no confidence" vote at Ramapo College in New Jersey. It was embarrassing then, and is so now. Less than two years later, he was forced to resign from COB due to accusations of plagiarism. One would think that an individual with his level of education would be familiar with plagiarism and its consequences (he's head of a college after all). Everyone knows - plagiarism is the Cardinal Sin of Academia! What a horrible example/message to send to our young people. How COB can ever discipline someone for plagiarism in the future is beyond me. Smith is a bad choice.

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NewJersey 4 months, 3 weeks ago

Does he have to pay back the monies he received as a settlement the last time he was here, or does he get to keep that? Just askin'....

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Sara 4 months, 2 weeks ago

Yes it was a no confident vote but was the question ever asked why? Dr. Smith said the faculty mainly WHITES made it untenable for him and his family at Ramapo. Ramapo was accused and known for racist behavior prior to and during that time. Don't just take what is spit out at you my people but do your home work. Also go and visit Ramapo College...page where past presidents are listed and read what is written of Dr. Smith. He is the right man for the job and he will continue the work that he started at the College.

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NewJersey 4 months, 1 week ago

Sara, I think if you look at the article, you will find that Ramapo is no different from most of the Northeastern Colleges. The fact that Smith didn't assess the 'racist' aspect of the college before becoming President there just underscores his lack of thought. http://www.ramapo.edu/dac/files/2013/05/DiversityClimateFactors_DisaggregatedbySexSexualityRace-1-31-13.pdf

Also, please take into account, that, as COB's president, he will have to deal with , as you say.."WHITES (sic)' on an international level. let's see what they have to think about dealing with his track record....Oh yes, one more thing...Why did he leave Sunland in Freeport so quickly?????

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