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Chalkdust among four professors axed by UTT
Former calypso monarch Dr Hollis Liverpool, the Mighty Chalkdust, is among the casualties of a decision not to renew the contracts of four programme leaders (professors) at the University of Trinidad and Tobago (UTT) who are over 70.
Eight-time calypso monarch Liverpool, Associate Provost Prof Jeanette Morris, Prof Winston Suite and Prof Colin Stevenson, of the United Kingdom, are those whose contracts will not be renewed.
A source at the state-run university yesterday said: “It was a board decision that persons over the age of 70 can no longer hold programme professors’ positions.”
However, the source said UTT would not send these “70-plus” professors home entirely, but would retain them in other positions and capacities at the university, such as advisory boards.
However, the positions that would be offered, the source said, would not be equivalent to a lecturer’s salary, which starts from $40,000 a month.
“Remember, most of these people retired from UWI and came to UTT. They have been collecting big salaries and even pensions,” the source added.
UTT has a staff of over 1,200, all of whom are on contract.
“Liverpool is not the only one. You have a number of persons who are within the 70-plus age,” the source added.
It is understood that UTT decided on the move to create opportunities for other staff to grow and develop.
The T&T Guardian was told the board adopted the policy last month at the start of the new academic year.
Contacted yesterday, Morris, who was programme professor in education for six years and served two three-year contracts, said the move was unexpected.
“What they have done is that they have adopted a policy of not renewing contracts for academics who have reached the age of retirement,” she said.
Morris, whose contract ends this month, said she was notified last month.
However, Liverpool, who is programme professor of the Academy of Arts, Letters, Culture and Public Affairs, said he was unaware of any such move.
“I am still at UTT. I am teaching right now,” said Liverpool, who is in his early 70s. His contract is expected to end this year.
Suite could not be reached for comment and Stevenson has since left T&T.
UTT chairman Curtis Manchoon could not be reached since he is out of the country. His wife, who answered his phone, said she could not say when he would return.
Meanwhile several staff and students have complained of open hostility between senior managers in the past few weeks.
The source said at the start of the new semester there was a heated argument between acting president Dr Fazal Ali and one of the vice-presidents.
At the O’Meara Campus, several staff said reports were circulating that Ali would be axed. They said if Ali was fired it would not come as a shock, since three people had served brief stints in that position over a 30-month period.
They were Professor Emeritus Ramesh Deosaran, Professor Emeritus Kenneth Ramchand and Rodney Jagai.
Karim: No tension at UTT
Tertiary Education Minister Fazal Karim said he was unaware of UTT’s new policy but noted the retirement age at the University of the West Indies’ St Augustine Campus for employees was 65.
He added: “However, it is not unusual for persons over the age of 65 to return on a contractual basis.
“Let me say categorically the People’s Partnership Government came to office on the principle of equity and not to discriminate against anyone.”
Questioned about the tensions between managers, Karim said: “No tension has been brought to my attention.”
Insisting that UTT was on a growth path and building academics, Karim said those who had served the university for many years came from other institutions to engage in mentorship and the transference of knowledge in order to build capacity of the upcoming students.
Ali: There is
Ali confirmed UTT has a retirement policy in place.
“This is a normal part of any employment contract where people reach a stage in their employment where they retire. So there is no malice in trying to do this,” he said.
Questioned about Liverpool, Ali added: “I am sure there are policies in place to retain them in a capacity to contribute to the academic advancement of the university.
“Retirement is a routine procedure. You don’t need to put a special stamp on that.”
Asked how soon Liverpool will be relieved of his duties, Ali said: “Only the vice president of human resource Allan Raghunanan will know.”
Ali denied being at loggerheads with managers or anyone at UTT, saying the university had been at its strongest in the last year.
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