Appointment of New President Sparks Temporary Confusion at the University

By Josephus Moses Gray
Monrovia, Liberia


The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia

August 20, 2004

Unversity of Liberia Main Entrance
Normal academic activities at the Capitol Hill main campus of the nation's highest institution of learning -the University of Liberia (UL)- came to "stand-still" on Thursday, August 19, 2004, as confusion brewed on the campus over the selection of the new university president. The discontentment, which had the propensity to de-generate into chaos, if not address urgently, started following reports that the head of the National Transitional Government of Liberia, Chairman Charles Gyude Bryant has appointed Dr. Al Hassan Conteh as the new president of the university.

According to the charter that created the university, the President of the Republic of Liberia is the Visitor to the university and has the power to appoint the president of the university based on recommendation from the university Board of trustee.

The University of Liberia Faculty Association (ULFA) challenged the authority of the Visitor to the university to appoint the president of the nation's highest institution of learning, as they vowed to reject the appointment of Dr. Conteh as president of the institution. This is the first time in the history of the university for the instructional staff to resolve to such rejection of their head.

In their demand, the teachers who called for the elevation of the current Vice President, Dr. James Kollie to the position of president, who took over when Dr. Ben Roberts was ousted in January 2004, demand that Chairman Bryant revisit the appointment of Dr. Conteh. Both Dr. Conteh and Dr. Kollie served in similar position as Vice President for Academic Affairs of the university.

Dr. Conteh formerly served the university as Vice President for Academic Affairs for few years and is credited for improving the UL Demographic Unit. He, however, fled Liberia to the United States during the brutal regime of Charles Taylor. Dr. Conteh is one of several Liberians who fled the country for fears of their lives.

Following the departure of Dr. Conteh from the university, Dr. Kollie was appointed to the Vice President for Academic Affairs, and served in that position until his recent appointment as "acting president" of the university.

In accordance with the UL Charter, the Board of Trustees selected three candidates out of dozen scholars and academic administrators and submitted them to Chairman Bryant for a final decision. This has always been the case but 2004 has been a dramatic year for the university, as the faculty members are demanding that a person of their choice be appointed as president of the institution.

The aggrieved faculty members have boycotted classes, thereby disrupting normal activities on the UL campus. The faculty members who are pressing forth the demand are saying that Chairman Bryant should consider appointing someone who resides in Liberia in recent time and not Dr. Conteh who have been out of the country for about five years.

However, Chairman Bryant appointed Dr. Conteh after the UL Board of trustees submitted three names out of the 15 applicants, including Dr. Kollie, that applied for the position, which was advertised in the local dailies in Monrovia for about a month.

A special search committee chaired by Dr. C. William Allen, interviewed and narrowed down the dozen of applicants to the "best three names" in what many described as very a free, fair and transparent exercise in selecting the three prominent names for onward submission to the university Board of Trustees before submitting the names to Chairman Bryant to select one name as president of the university.

Dr. C. William Allen
Some members of the Special committee including the Dean of the Louis Arthur Grain School of Law at the university, Cllr. David Jallah; Dr. C. William Allen, Minister of Information and Chair, Dr. Louise C. York, President of the A.M.E. Zion University, Sis. Mary Laurent Brown, President of the Don Bosco University, Madam Ellen George and two other persons.

According to information gathered, out of the first short listed applicants, Dr. Conteh scored a grade point of 96/100 while another applicant scored 86/100 and two others scored 74/100, while Dr.. Kollie scored 73/100, respectively.

But the two applicants that scored 74/100 were dropped from the list of three and Dr. Kollie was placed between the two applicants who scored the highest grade points. The committee, according to information gathered, later presented the three names to the UL Board of Trustees along with each of the applicant’s score.

Latest report gathered revealed that Dr. James Kollie is under going intense pressure to relinquish the position, while the vanguard Student Unification Party (SUP) has issued an ultimatum to the parties involved in the power struggle to resolve their difference and that the faculty members return to class.

According to SUP, it would resort to an unexpected action if the parties involved in the unhealthy exercise to scramble for position fail to meet up with its ultimatum to see reason.

In a communication with The Perspective, the Chair of the Search Committee, Dr. C. Allen William confirmed that things have returned to normal on campus and that classes have resumed. He added that Chairman Bryant is scheduled to meet with faculty members next week. Dr. Allen, who is also Minister of Information, Cultural Affairs and Tourism, said that “the appointment of Dr. Conteh has gone through the process according to the rules and regulations of the university and this matter is concluded.”

The Perspective also reached Dr. Conteh, in Philadelphia to comment on the issue. “All I can say is that I feel happy and honored by this selection and want to thank the Search Committee and Chairman Bryant for giving me a chance to serve our noble institution. There is lot of work ahead of us and we all need to join our efforts to make LU the best university that it can be. I look forward to returning home and working with everybody at my alma mater.”