Ruccors at UNIOSUN over VC candidacy

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Crisis is brewing at the Osun State University (UNIOSUN) over the appointment of the next substantive Vice-Chancellor, who will take over from the incumbent, Professor Labode Popoola, whose tenure expires on November 4, this year.

This is as some stakeholders are fuming over the criteria and requirements set for the selection process, which they described as anti-extant law of the university, and set in favour of some particular candidates.

This has since resulted in a raging controversy among members of the university community (academic and non-academic staff), who condemned the advertorial published in July in some national dailies to set the tone and criteria for the vicechancellor race.

Members of the university community, especially the staff unions, including the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU); Senior Staff Union of Nigerian Universities (SSANU), Non-Academic Staff Union (NASU) and the National Association of Academic Technologists (NAAT) have challenged the advertorial, which they claimed were not only contrary to the extant law of the university, but also ill-conceived.

Worried by the development, some critical stakeholders in the university project, under the aegis of the Concerned and Committed UNIOSUN Professors, had written a letter to the Governor and Visitor to the University, Adegboyega Oyetola, to intervene in the matter before it becomes a full-blown crisis.

Meanwhile, the groups are accusing the university Governing Council and outgoing Vice-Chancellor of allegedly digging potholes on the road of many intending candidates for the post in the requirements outlined in the advertisement.

The Concerned and Committed UNIOSUN Professors, in a letter dated August 10, 2021 and entitled: “Academic, Administrative and Legal Implications of UNIOSUN Advert for the Position of Vice-Chancellor,” stated that a thorough analysis of the requirements/ criteria to be met by the intending candidates for the position suggests that some of the stated requirements/criteria are subjective, unfair, unjustified and tilted towards a predetermined candidate (s) who would be from Science-based disciplines and perhaps from outside the university.

“These requirements and the administration of the application processes have both academic and administrative implications on the prospective applicants and on the entire Osun State University,” the letter added.

On the administrative and legal implications of the criteria, the Professors, who also condemned the inclusion of the Vice-Chancellor as the recipient of all applications for the post of Vice-Chancellor, described such provision as a violation of Osun State University Law (2006) which does not list the sitting or outgoing Vice-Chancellor as a member of the Joint Council/Senate Selection Board or Committee for the appointment of the Vice-Chancellor.

Also, the Concerned and Committed Professors in the letter, said the advertisement, which directed prospective applicants to submit their applications to the Vice-Chancellor of the university was a gross violation of Osun State University Conditions of Service as amended in 2019 and 2021, since the referred Conditions of Service does not provide any role for the Vice-Chancellor in the Joint Council/Senate Selection Board for the appointment of Vice-Chancellor.

They further noted: “For ease of reference, Osun State University Law 2006 is explicit on the composition of the Joint Council/Senate Selection Board for the appointment of Vice- Chancellor.

The 2006 Law lists the composition of the Selection Board thus: the Pro-Chancellor as Chairman; two members of the Council, not being members of Senate; and two members of Senate, who are professors and who are not members of the Search Team, shall consider the candidates on the short list drawn up under Paragraph 2 of this Statute through an examination of their curriculum vitae and interaction with them and make recommendations to Council.

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They, therefore, urged the Governor and the Visitor to the university to exercise his power by ensuring that the Osun State University Law 2006 is strictly complied with and enforced.

“We urge the Visitor to effect withdrawal of the advertisement so far made and that a redrafted new one that will place everybody on equal level and remove all legal infractions mentioned above.

“The university should learn from the Lagos State University and University of Ibadan that are still troubled in the processes of appointing their Vice-Chancellors respectively.

The troubles in those universities emanated from manipulation of the process due to undue favour granted to some candidates at the expense of others. Osun State University, our pride, should not be hijacked by vested interests, the appointment of a new Vice-Chancellor should follow laid down procedure and be fair, and just to all candidates interested in the position.”

Now, the Concerned Professors declared that the July 2021 advertisement for the post of Vice-Chancellor was a clear attempt to disenfranchise virtually all internal qualified academics from contesting the position of Vice-Chancellor by the draconian criteria released for the position.

They, however, expressed regrets that some vested and powerful interests were deliberately working towards a pre-planned move that is likely to generate controversies as being witnessed in some other Nigerian universities in recent time.

“It is almost certain that the curriculum vitae of certain favoured candidates have been used in crafting the advertisement that appeared to have deliberately excluded candidates from Law, Management and Social Sciences, Education, Arts, Humanities and Medicine from the race.

This is setting the stage for a crisis that the university may not find healthy,” the professors further warned.

According to the group, the attempt to create a Lebensaraum (Living Space) for only Scienceoriented scholars with PhD and for others in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM), is a disservice to scholarship. Kicking against the criteria, they argued that the advertisement did not show UNIOSUN as a “conventional university” as all the nuances and body language as shown in the advertisement reeks of a partial disposition towards only PhD holders of Science-based programmes and candidates, even as they described the advertisement as exclusionary.

Also, they criticised the advertisement and its scoring criteria, which according to them, are silent on the administrative, managerial and fundraising experience of would-be applicants for the post of Vice-Chancellor.

It is, therefore, imperative that the university should not be cast in the mould of a Scientific Research Institute or in the image of a Research Institute where the helmsman should have used his entire career in the scientific laboratories and also to go after research that is independent of teaching, administrative and community service.

The ability to conduct cutting-edge research is not the exclusive quality required for the position of Vice-Chancellor, but the ability to effectively manage writers of materials and resources for cutting-edge research. In the list of the requirements provided for under the candidate, the under listed are against natural justice, equity, fairness and academic fidelity.

Meanwhile, another contentious aspect of the advertisement, according to the letter, is the requirement that candidates must have published a minimum of 50 research (journal) articles with at least 20 of the articles published in high impact journals as defined by Thomson Reuters ISI and Web of Science.

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Besides, the requirements also said that candidates must demonstrate consistent academic productivity at professorial level by publishing at least 10 research articles in the last three years in high impact journals as defined by Thomson Reuters ISI and Web of Science.

To them, the university should be in search of an excellent manager of human and material resources, a scholar that will be able to link the university with the community, industry and other ranking higher institutions, and not a scholar who would spend his entire career and time in research laboratories.

While condemning the criteria in the advertisement, they urged the Visitor to effect withdrawal of the advertisement so far made and redraft a new one that would place every prospective candidate on equal level and remove all legal infractions mentioned above. But, the state government, the proprietor of the multi-campus university, has said that there was no crisis in UNIOSUN over the appointment of Vice-Chancellor based on the criteria/requirements outlined in the national dailies for the job.

The state Commissioner for Information and Orientation, Mrs. Funke Egbemode, maintained that there was no ruccors at UNIOSUN, saying the prerequisites are already stated in the advertorial.

The Commissioner, who said that the government expected only qualified people to apply, however, added that those not qualified needed not apply, even as she reiterated confidence in the government that the process would follow the process set out and a worthy Vice-Chancellor would emerge.

In her words, “There is no brewing crisis in UNIOSUN because the prerequisites are already stated in the advertorial. We expect only qualified people to apply. Those not qualified need not apply. We are confident that the process will follow the process set out and a worthy Vice Chancellor will emerge.”

But, reacting to the development, the Joint Action Committee (JAC) of NAAT, Non-Academic Staff Union (NASU) and the Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities (SSANU) of the university, in a letter of July 23 to the Pro-Chancellor/Chairman and members of Governing Council the university said the advertisement was in total variance with the law of the university.

The letter, entitled: “Re: Advertisement for the Position of Vice- Chancellor of Osun State University,” said: “JAC of NAAT, NASU and SSANU having read through the advertisement observed that the advertisement is in total variance with the normal and widely accepted advertisement in universities in Nigeria including the one that produced the outgoing Vice- Chancellor.”

Describing the advertisement as controversial, the unions insisted that the assertion that the advertisement was targeted at excellent scholars, who have the wherewithal to provide an allround leadership that is required by a truly 21st Century university, could not be actually substantiated.

The Chairman of JAC, Comrade Lekan Adiat, said the Joint Action Committee had written to the Governing Council and the Visitor to the university on the advertisement for the position of the Vice-Chancellor.

The criteria in the advertisement, he pointed out, was a clear departure from the normal in any university not only in Nigeria, but also worldwide.

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Again, he condemned the aspect of the requirement which placed the submission of the application forms to the outgoing Vice-Chancellor, describing it as a usurpation of the responsibility of the Registrar, who by the University Establishment Law is the Secretary to the Governing Council.

According to him, the appointment of the Vice-Chancellor is the absolute prerogative of the Governing Council and not that of the Vice-Chancellor.

He said, “We have emphasised the fact that submission of application to the Office of the Vice- Chancellor is a usurpation of the responsibility of the Registrar who by University Establishment Law is the Secretary to the Governing Council.

The appointment of the Vice-Chancellor is the absolute prerogative of the Governing Council and not that of the Vice- Chancellor. The entire advertisement as it was placed in the dailies, Adait noted, was the confirmation of a compromise of the process because that advertisement was a great departure from the best standard and practice worldwide.

On the next line of action by the unions, he stressed: “Well, it is a known fact that our members could not apply for the position of the Vice-Chancellor because it is meant for only teaching staff of a Professor of 10 years standing.

The next step of action is meant for those who are qualified to apply, but for a peaceful and harmonious working relationship, the Law of the University should be respected.”

In the letter signed by Samuel Olawumi (Chairman, NAAT); Isaiah Fayemi (Chairman, NASU) and Lekan Adiat (Chairman, SSANU & JAC) respectively, drew the attention of the Governing Council to the fact that since the inception of the university, this would be the first advertisement that would generate issues not only within the university, but also outside.

“JAC, therefore, wishes to appeal to Council to note all the points raised herein and make necessary correction to give room for transparency and a rancorfree process of appointment by producing an advertisement devoid of controversies as JAC will resist vehemently any act of individual or a group of persons to compromise the process as contained in the Law of the university,” the letter added.

Following the controversies trailing the advertisement, the Council had in a republished advertisement amended some aspects of the earlier advertisement. Part of the amended advertisement tagged: “Addendum to Advertisement for Vacancy for the Post of Vice-Chancellor,” and signed by G.A.A Shittu,

Registrar & Secretary to Council, said, “The Council at its meeting of Wednesday, August 18, 2021 in exercise of its powers, reviewed the requirements/metrics in aforementioned paragraphs (Sub-paragraphs iii, iv, v, vii and viii of the advertisement and decided not to visit on the quantum stated in the listed paragraph.

All other conditions in the said advertisement subsist, subject to the above.”

However, they are still challenging, among others metrics, the requirement which places the submission of the application forms to the outgoing Vice-Chancellor, which is the absolute prerogative of the Governing Council and not that of the Vice-Chancellor, as well as generating research grants for the university.

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