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UTech president confident, but hurt by release of report

BY BALFORD HENRY Observer senior reporter balfordh@jamaicaobserver.com

Sunday, March 16, 2014    

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PRESIDENT of the University of Technology (UTech) Professor Errol Morrison is confident that tomorrow's meeting of the university's council, to decide his fate, will have a positive outcome, but insists that the matter will not end there.

"The council is my real boss. Whatever they recommend, I will abide by. But that is just the first step, because I cannot allow my reputation to be maligned," Professor Morrison told the Jamaica Observer on Friday.

"I am allowing the whole process to go through, and I will certainly be gathering all the data and I will take counsel at the end of it all," he said.

"Let me put it this way, I will get legal advice, because you know, a sore wrong has been done to my reputation. Even when people say your reputation is worldwide and this can't affect it, but still this is my domicile, where I live and work," he added.

Professor Morrison was responding to questions regarding the fact that the University Council will meet again tomorrow, after being given almost a week to study the report from a special advisory committee appointed last year by Minister of Education Ronald Thwaites to probe alleged administrative faults at the institution. Among the recommendations of the committee was the immediate replacement of Morrison.

The final report of the committee was sent to Thwaites at the end of February, but copies were released to the media last week, prior to being seen by the University Council and its administration.

Professor Morrison pointed out that the press reports emanating from the untimely release of the report to the media led the council to hold an emergency meeting last week Tuesday. However, the council and administrators were unable to deal with the issues then, as they only received their copies at 5.30 the previous evening.

"The council did not have a copy of the report up to then, although the members may have got snippets from what was reported by the media. We didn't have a chance to read it carefully up to then, and what was agreed was to take it and study it for the rest of the week, go through the recommendations, point by point, and let's see if there is a real case," he told the Sunday Observer.

Professor Morrison has criticised the committee, headed by former High Commissioner to London and retired Member of Parliament Derrick Heaven, for failing to verify the allegations made by some members of staff during their probe, by seeking a response from

the administration.

Deputy president of the institution, Dr Kofi Nkrumah-Young, who was a member of the committee, did not sign the report and later issued a minority report refuting several of the statements included.

"They said I spent money outside of procurement policy, but all of this has been documented carefully to show, clearly, that the committee and many others were not prepared to do the due diligence, to determine whether the allegations were true. But, even if they don't want to believe the responses, at least get a response, no! There are two sides to a story and they have done this in almost every instance," the UTech president noted.

"So we are very disappointed, but we have put together all the data. We have searched our archives, we have dug into our documentation, and we have been able to produce detailed, fulsome answers to every one of these allegations and we are going to see where it ends," he stated.

Morrison, who is 68, could leave the job when his current term ends next February. However, a president of UTech can serve up to age 70 and he is concerned about why there is so much undue haste to remove him now.

He admitted hearing rumours of being "stabbed in the back"; however, he said that he would be disappointed to know that this was what all the fuss is about.

"If you want to see the back of me, simply say, 'Look, Morro, time to go now, you've done your thing, you've transitioned the place, we want to put a new stamp on it'," Morrison stated.

"But, all of this tearing down ... with inaccurate information and broadsiding in the media, before you're even given a chance to respond. No court of law works like that. You have evidence and counter-evidence. That's what you call natural justice, and I have not been given the opportunity.

"Therefore, you can't be surprised if I am expressing the need for some kind of, at minimum and at the end of it all, some acknowledgement than an error, a gross travesty of justice, has taken place," one stated.

Historically, UTech dates back to 1958 when it originated as the Jamaica Institute of Technology. In 1959 the name was changed to the College of Arts, Science and Technology (CAST), and it became incorporated in the CAST Scheme of 1959. This was validated by Parliament in 1964.

In 1986, the CAST Scheme was revised to make the college a degree-granting institution and the college became legally empowered to conduct its own affairs, under a governing council and academic board.

The institution was formally accorded university status on September 1, 1995 as the University of Technology, Jamaica.

Morrison, a professor of biochemistry and endocrinology, and a former vice chancellor and dean of the School of Graduate Studies and Research at the University of West Indies (UWI), Mona, was appointed president of the institution in March 2007.

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