By Dr. Selwyn R. Cudjoe
December 18, 2017
UTT was established fourteen years ago. One estimate suggests T&T taxpayers have spent close to $2 billion on its upkeep. If an independent body has not evaluated UTT, it should do so and make its findings public. Citizens should look at UTT’s efficacy before government pours more money into its operations. Moreover, the following actions should be undertaken to make UTT a more viable institution:
First. Ken Julien should be removed from being the governor of the board, even though he acts as the president and governor all in one. His is the only voice one ever hears on matters concerning the institution. He has brought the institution to its present impasse and should be let go. A more forward-looking scholar should replace him.
Second. The Board of Governors should be revamped to include accomplished professionals who are au courant with present trends in higher education and who could prod the university to achieve greater efficiency and scholarly respectability. Scholars such as Wayne Frederick, president of Howard University, Arnold Rampersad, former dean of Stanford University, Carol Boyce Davies, professor of English and Africana Studies Department, Cornell University, and Jacqui Alexander, professor, New School of Social Research should be recruited to serve on the board. These Trinis would be delighted to serve and would bring the necessary expertise to set this ship aright.
Third. There should be relatively high entrance requirements. A school that has no entrance requirements cannot attract the best students. Eventually, it must fail. Demand nothing of your students and you will receive nothing in return.
Fourth. The institution should cease offering doctoral programs. It does not have the personnel or the financial resources to do so. It should concentrate on its undergraduate program and perhaps limited master’s programs. It cannot sustain a legitimate doctoral program given its limited academic and financial resources.
Fifth. The university should reduce its enrollment, limit the academic area it teaches, and emphasize excellence. UTT enrolled 7,752 full-time and part-time students between 2010 and 2016. Currently, it spends $394 million (or 61.5 million US dollars) to educate 2,500 students. In 2016, Wellesley College, an undergraduate college, spent US $225 million to educate 2,340 students. Quality is always to be preferred over quantity.
Sixth. The institution should offer tenure and/or long-term contracts to its faculty once they have met the university requirements. The relevant faculties-not a human resource officer—should select them. Necessarily, the Board of Governors, not the president, should approve faculty members to these ranks.
Seventh. The institution should redefine its goals and objectives. It should strive to educate conscientious citizens. In addition to its specialized knowledge, no student should leave UTT without knowing the country’s history from 1800 to the present time, understand the various elements of its culture, and possess an awareness of his or her civic responsibilities.
Eighth. The institution should publish the compensation for all its administrative officers, beginning with that of the president. Each year, the Chronicle of Higher Education publishes the salaries of college and university presidents in the United States. (See “Executive Compensation at Private and Public Colleges,” Chronicle of Higher Education, December 10, 2007.)
Ninth. The public has a right to know if UTT hired consultants at $2,500 and $3,000 a day since 2015, what services they provide, why such services cannot be provided by its present faculty, why it pays such large sums of money for the rental of facilities, and who owns these facilities. (See Express, November 3, 2017.) There needs to be greater transparency of UTT.
Tenth. Apart from its technical thrust, UTT should promote the civic and social needs of the society. Nine years ago I queried whether UTT, as it was constituted then, could educate and train our citizens to take their place in T&T and the larger world (trinicenter.com, August 1, 2008). The evidence suggests it does not have the ability to do so.
Eleventh. While the government cannot abdicate its responsibility, it ought to take a hands-off position and add one member to the Board of Governors to secure its interest.
Last Saturday I asked Gilbert Strang, the MathWorks Professor at MIT and winner of the Chauvenet Prize (awarded annually by the Mathematical Association of America for the best article written on a mathematical topic), what he was working on. He said he was working on “deep learning and neural net,” the technology that underlies driverless cars. He added: “I am a theory person but I am trying to find out how these things work.”
UTT is still preparing citizens to work in the oil and gas industry, a necessary emphasis in T&T even though, “its days are behind it” (Financial Times, December 11). Anjil Raval and Andrew Ward asked recently: “How much longer will oil remain the life-blood of global commerce?” (Financial Times) Saudi Arabia, the world’s largest producer of crude, has begun to diversify its economy.
On Wednesday, a reader responded to my article. He wrote: “Your title ‘forged from the bowels of corruption’ is suitable here because the question arises, how can you get quality output when the input is so corrupted?” (trinicenter.com).
One may interpret “quality output” however one wishes. The question remains, Is UTT working in our nation’s best interest?