Destabilization of the Barbados Community College (BCC)
Submitted Neil Watchman
There is growing concern among staff at the Barbados Community College where the Board or more accurately, the Chairman, seems to have developed a tight stranglehold on the institution. Staff cannot recall there ever being such a high level of politicization at the institution until the advent of Mr. Stephen Broome who served first as Deputy Chairman and is now in his second term as Chairman.
Some, perhaps out of fear, believe that the Chairman’s mission is to destabilize the institution as a precursor to the Government’s phasing it out. They point to the recent spate of sixth forms set up by the MOE headed by Ronald Jones in support of this supposition. This, coupled with the imposition of higher fees on UWI students from 2014 makes for a very confusing educational policy. One could be excused for thinking that the Government would have put more resources into the BCC but then again, if it didn’t do that when things were well, one cannot expect them to do it in these dire times. So what? Such confusion and contradictions seem symptomatic of the Freundel Stuart administration, anyhow.
Meanwhile, the destabilization of the BCC continues – permanent appointments at the College are being made into temporary appointments. Case in point is the non-appointment of the head of Fine Arts Division, Dr. Alison Thompson. Dr. Thompson has been acting in this post for some four years, now. She applied for the permanent post in 2012 but to date the Board has not chosen to appoint her and has not had the decency respond to correspondence seeking an explanation.
It is understood that in the case of permanent appointments at the BCC, there is a time-honoured tradition in which the successful candidate serves a three month probationary period at the end of which he or she is confirmed in the post. It should also be noted that Dr. Thompson’s appointment should have been made long before the August 2013 budget which proposed a freeze in public sector appointments.
It does not require a degree in rocket science to understand the rationale for this malfeasance. The Fine Arts Division, under Dr. Thompson’s leadership, managed to secure foreign funding for the Division to the tune of some $300,000. When the overseas donors refused to pass the money through the BCC’s coffers, the Chairman refused to grant permission to make structural upgrades to the Fine Arts Division resulting in the loss of funding. Dr. Thompson’s non-appointment followed. Can you believe this; that in these times when the Government has cut the BCC budget several times, that a Chairman would cause a Division involved in the cultural industries to lose over one quarter of a million dollars in foreign grants? The contradictions grow!
In the meantime, the Chairman continues to run a one-man Board and micro-manage the College. He has bungled the firing of a non-performing principal, subsumed the Liberal Arts Division under General Education and is now playing Russian roulette with the appointment of a Senior Tutor to the largest and most profitable division, namely the Division of Commerce, where, as a result, operational processes and staff morale are beginning to slide. BCC staff members are becoming increasingly annoyed at the Chairman’s belligerence, the principal’s tacit consent and the MOE’s silence. It is only matter of time before serious industrial relations problems erupt at the Eyrie educational institution.