23 January 2014

Liberia: No School - No Annual Message: UL Wahala Deepens

Photo: FrontPage Africa
Protesting students set up road blocks.

Monrovia — Like former University of Liberia President Dr. Alhassan Conteh, Dr. Wede Brownell, Vice President for Academic Affairs seems to be on her way out of the UL.

FrontPAgeAfrica has gathered that the UL's board of directors has asked for the termination of the service of the embattled administrator, something that both lecturers and students have called for. The University was shut down following violent student protest demanding the resignation of the Dr. Brownell.

The tension on the campus began in November when students joined members of the UL faculty in demands Brownell's resignation. The students paraded the UL main campus with a symbolic casket bearing portrait of Madam Brownell. But during a press conference, Brownell insisted that she will not resign, but rather clean the mess that exists at the UL.

Citing a resolution passed by the faculty, ULFA President Clifford Young said the faculty was disengaging from all activities at the UL's four campuses, leaving the UL authority with no option but to shut down the main campus and Fendell.

Young vowed that the strike action would continue until madam Brownell resigns. "No faculty member of the University of Liberia will engage in any instructional activities at the University until our demands are met," Young noted. Mt. Young added that, since madam Brownell's incumbency as Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost, there have been lots of problems between students and faculty members.

He cited arbitrary dismissals, mistreatment of faculty members as some of the problems that warrant the resignation of Dr. Brownell. Young said ULFA has resolved that its members, which include lecturers would lay down their chalks until the vice President for Academic Affairs is removed from the University. This decision by ULFA brought activities at the State University to a standstill and class to a halt amid anger from students.

On Wednesday what appeared to be a possible threat and embarrassment to President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf ahead of next Monday's address to the legislature, protesting students had begun to mobilize human resource to disrupt the occasion.

Dozens of students at the University of Liberia continued to threaten the Liberian leader and the government of Liberia in totality with a protest action against the delivery on Wednesday, with the police making several arrests.

Information Minister Lewis G. Brown has maintained that the security will exercise maximum protection for President Sirleaf and all other dignitaries and participants at the pending Monday ceremony, noting that the nation's security has been put on high alert for would be demonstrators. On Wednesday, bystanders got a first-look at what some observers say was a prelude to the looming protest.

For nearly two hours in the middle of a heavy downpour of rain, all moving vehicles plying roads leading to the executive mansion from Broad Street through the Sinkor belt came to a complete halt as angry students University staged a mass demonstration, setting roadblocks, demanding the reopening of their school, which was pronounced opened on Tuesday the authorities of the University but faculty staffers resisted the call by the board of trustees and boycotted classes.

Commuters were seen trekking to various destinations as the students doubled up their blockade, thus preventing motorists from plying through the Capitol Hill.

On Tuesday night, just a day after the administration announced the resumption of normal classes, the University warned all students to stay off the campuses pending the outcome of ongoing negotiations, casting a dark cloud over the school's reopening.

According to the protesting students who barricaded the front view of the main campus of the state-run University of Liberia, they will remain on the rampage until their school resumes classes, noting that they remained prepared to risk their chests for the bullet in the name of education.

Said one protesting student to FrontPage Africa Wednesday: "We are prepared to give our chest to the bullet for the sake of education. No school; no annual message. We will tell the international community that madam Sirleaf is the cause of the mess in our educational system."

After two hours of stay at the front of the state run University, officers of the Police Support Unit of the Liberia National Police decisively intervened rounding up several protesters while some students resulted in throwing stones at the police officers who had come to quiet the crowd and maintain order. The University of Liberia the nation's most prestigious institute of higher learning, cancelled all classes and suspended all campus activities until further notice in November last year.

Trouble began brewing in mid-November when the university announced that a certain scholarship would be discontinued due to late registrations, a pronouncement that later shifted the institution into severe nightmare.

Angry students later slash away schedules for the midterm examinations at the time citing that many students did not register before the test schedules were made available. In a later news conference, faculty members called for Vice President for Academic Affairs (VPAA) & Provost, Brownell, to resign. According to ULFA, the academic standards of the institution had been in sharp decline since Brownell's tenure.

Now that it appears that the Board of Trustees of the University of Liberia has finally bowed to demands of the lecturers and students to dismiss U.L provost Brownell, it remains to be seen whether Dr. Emmett Dennis will communicate the decision to the President who happens to be the visitor to the UL.

A source at the UL who refused to be named, said, "The news now is that the board has agreed to fire Dr. Brownell". This news seems to end the strike action by both the students and the lecturers who are demanding the resignation of Dr. Brownell as pre-requisite to begin lectures.

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