Monday, May 18, 2009

University stand non-negotiable, says Prof Siaguru

The newly-renamed University of Natural Resources and Environment (formerly University of Vudal) will not pull the plug on the rest of the 2009 academic year, says vice-chancellor Prof Philip Siaguru.
By the same token, he added, he would not tolerate students not attending classes and they would not receive any grades if they did not complete semester one.
Prof Siaguru said this after a report in the Post-Courier last Friday saying that the UNRE would close closes for the rest of the year.
Students have not been attending classes since last Monday over concerns about block courses and the grading system, which they want gotten rid of, as they claim it only allows for a small number of students at the top at the rest while the rest were below.
As of yesterday (Sunday), however, there was no clear indication as to when classes would resume, with Prof Siaguru to have met with staff last night and with dean Alan Quartermain today (Monday) to discuss on the next move by the administration.
Prof Siaguru, however, said a letter to the student body dated May 8  had been taken out of context by the Post-Courier.
The letter states quite explicitly about block courses, the current grading system, as well as the university’s position that its stand was “non-negotiable”.
Under the block arrangement, external experts on subject matters can move between campuses to teach, and did not limit the university to teaching campus students only as the whole country can be taught by videos, email and internet systems.
Whereas, under the current grading system, current percentages are 5% (A’s), 15% (B’s),
25% (C’s), and the rest D’s – “That is fair, as academic board cannot and will not drop its standard any lower, hence, compromising the quality graduates this university has been producing. The position is non-negotiable. This university will not drop its standards just to get more scholarships. Students just have to be good or better to earn that scholarship”.
Prof Siaguru said, in his first media interview since the stand-off began, as he has been very busy officiating at the LNG meeting between government and landowners at Kokopo, that “I did not say that I will close the university”.
“If the students do not complete the 13 weeks required for semester one, then the academic board cannot award them any grades for semester one.
“We (administration) have already made two attempts to get them (students) to come to the table and discuss, but they did not come.
“We invited the SRC executive to come for the meeting but the SRC president (Gibson Honjepari) is insisting that the administration must attend a forum and explain to the students.
“I am a seasoned university administrator and I know forums cannot solve anything.
“I told the students that the forum will not solve anything and invited them to a roundtable discussion, but they made it their position that the only avenue to discuss this is in a public forum with the students.
“I maintain that our role in the university is to teach the students not only in their chosen professions, but also proper governance, compliance, and to follow the rule of law.
“It’s not in our curriculum, but all institutions must make it their responsibility to teach students proper conduct, governance, compliance, and rule of law.
“I’m simply telling the students, ‘no, it’s wrong what you’re doing’, you cannot expect the administration to come and meet you in a public forum.
“This is a state institution and proper conduct must apply.
“I’m putting my foot down and saying ‘no’.
“The SRC president and his executive have allowed a minority of students to lead them and that’s wrong.
“A leader is elected to lead, not be led.”

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