2 February 2014

Liberia: UL Prexy Collapses

Amidst tense atmosphere that would have seen the reopening of the University of Liberia, students and faculty members received the stunning news yesterday that the 75-year old president of UL, Dr. Emmett Dennis, collapsed in his office. He fell off in the afternoon hours minutes after his blood pressure exceeded 130 degree, sources hinted the New Democrat. Rushed to the Seventh-Day Adventist Hospital on 12 Street in Sinkor, he responded to treatment and was soon discharged to be driven home with doctors advising that he should rest for some days. The latest development came when authorities were clearing the way for the reopening of the university, shut down since last November when students and faculty members went on strike demanding the dismissal of the vice president, Dr Wade Brownell, and the fulfillment of a host of issues. A report released on the crisis seemed to have heeded the demands of the university strikers, prompting the authorities to order the resumption of normal activities. But the at the campus yesterday, there were no signs of the university reopening. The administration later issued a release saying further negotiations were taking place to ensure the resumption of classes. Faculty Association (ULFA), issued a statement disengaging from all activities until their demands were met. Our reporter who visited the campus said the it was like a ghost town as there was no present, except for students' militants and faculty members. A statement signed by ULFA Secretary General, Mr. W. Mannie Sr, said it was taken aback by members of the Board of Trustees who reconfirmed the appointment of Dr. Walter Wiles as Acting Vice President for Academic Affairs, while Mrs. Wade Brownell remains on leave with the possibility of her returning. ULFA said the decision by the Board contradicts the recommendation by the Committee set up to probe academic wrongdoings at the State-run University. The committee recommended the "dismissal or resignation" of Madam Wede Brownell, Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provosts, University.

The investigative Committee headed by Cllr. Theophilus Gould said the decision was in the best interest of the "peace and academic continuity." But ULFA said it was regrettable and disappointing that the Board of Trustees having impressed them would thwart the committee's report. "The rescinding of disengagement, which was occasioned, can only be effectuated if and only if the Board of Trustees endorses the decision of the committee and accordingly replaces her (Brownell)," ULFA statement said. "We therefore call upon all Faculty Members to remain disengaged until our demands; especially our demand for the immediate resignation and or dismissal of Mrs. Brownell is satisfactorily addressed." Making matter worst for President Dennis, the University of Liberia Student union (ULSU) later yesterday issued a statement citing all county leadership, discipline base and social association to assemble on the campus today (Wednesday) for what they described as final meeting of "No compromise."

The situation later provoked the ailing President (Dr. Dennis) to telephone ULFA threatening to resign his post as president of the University before next Monday, saying he could no longer continue with the standoff and closure of the University, sources hinted this paper. The students have threatened to declare a "state of emergency" on Monday (Ellen's State of the Nation's Address) thus calling on all student to dress in "white shirt and black pants." Although the Executive Mansion through the Information Ministry has challenged the students, a spokesman of the group Mr. Alvin Wesseh said UL students would resist any attack on them by police officers. "It would be a bloodbath on Monday if they dare attack us," he said yesterday addressing his colleagues.

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