The Inquirer (Monrovia)

19 December 2013

Liberia: Ellen "Disgusted" Over Violence At UL

The president of the University of Liberia, Emmet Dennis announced to the 95th graduating class that President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, visitor of the University, could not be at the commencement ceremony yesterday because she was disgusted over the recent disruption by students of the university. Dr. Dennis used the occasion to publicly apologize to the visitor during the occasion stating that the UL understands government's priority and the support given to the university over the years. He expressed how barbaric the act meted out against the Vice president for Academic Affairs/provost Weade Brownell which resulted to the faculty's call to disengage from all activities due to several reasons.

Dr. Dennis commanded his staff for their level of maturity exhibited during the crisis at the University which brought all activities at the campuses to an immediate halt adding that that has led to an ongoing investigation.

The UL president said his administration will maintain adherence to the university's enrolment criteria because this last entrance exam result was very dismal, which was the first since his ascendency as president of the UL.

Dr. Dennis said UL will return to zero percent under population in growth due to low enrolment. He then congratulated the graduates and announced how proud he was to graduate about 1, 658 persons qualified for the job market.

Sometime this year, some students of the UL who felt aggrieved staged a demonstration in demand of the resignation of Dr. Weade Elliotte Brownell for reasons among which were having a better university stating how the UL under the supervision of Dr. Brownell as provost does not have a system and it is what led to the mass failure.

They named issues that are affecting UL and the students as the registration procedure; EDP not working along with the department; the appointment of Dr. Brownell and the poor academic system.

During another instance, the University of Liberia announced its regrets over the sudden postponement of the June 22, 2013, Entrance Examinations due to circumstances beyond its control.

The UL Administration said it is the policy of the UL to protect the integrity of the exams by printing the materials as close as possible to the exam time and that after successfully printing and dispatching test materials to the leeward counties, a technical breakdown of IT and reproduction equipment occurred resulting in the difficulty of producing adequate test copies of the exam for Central Monrovia and its immediate environs.

In spite of this, the Committee had hoped it could still administer the exam as scheduled and the University was in constant communication with its county supervisors and coordinators, and according to them, the examination was going on smoothly.

However, on August 20, 2013, the UL announced how it will only enroll 1,626 out of the 25, 000 candidates who took the university entrance barely a day following reports that all candidates who sat the test failed massively.

At a called news conference, the head of the UL Relations, Dr. S. Momolu Getaweh said the UL Senate reviewed several other scenarios below the benchmarks and thereupon recommended for admission 1,626 candidates who scored either at least 40% in Math or 50% in English in the Undergraduate Programs.

Those to have been admitted included 25 for the College of General Studies (Continuing Education), 93 in the six (6) graduate programs, thirty seven (37) for the Law School and 24 for the School of Pharmacy for Academic 2013/2014.

The results indicate that no candidate out-rightly earned the scores of 50% in Math and 70% in English previously set by the Faculty Senate of the University as the passing scores for the Undergraduate Examinations.

On November 8, ULSU presented a position paper to the Vice President for Student Affairs, Weade Brownell listing issues among which the registration process and mid-term examinations which for them needed immediate attention.

While the administration was reviewing the students' concerns, the Faculty Association on November 20, held a press conference calling for the immediate resignation of the Vice President for Academic Affairs and the disengagement of all facilities from all teaching activities among other things until their demands are met thereby expressing their frustration over Dr. Brownell's action to have some instructors dismissed, salary deduction based upon rate, the enrolment of students who were pronounced 'all' failed as well as poor academic management .

In order to restore calm to the university, the Administration suspended all its activities with immediate effect on all its campuses with an approval from its Executive Committee of the Board of Trustees.

The administration also directed all concerned to stay away from the institution's premises while a full investigation was being conducted and the decision of the UL administration came against the backdrop of series of 'unprecedented' violence which has not been experienced at the University in the last five years.

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