Rodney Smith new COB president
Former College of The Bahamas President Dr. Rodney Smith, who resigned from COB in 2005 during a plagiarism scandal, will return as the new COB president, Minister of Education Jerome Fitzgerald announced yesterday.
The Council of The College of The Bahamas recommended Smith be appointed to the top post in June.
“The council indicated that they had come to this conclusion after conducting an open, fair and transparent process,” said Fitzgerald, during a press conference at the Ministry of Education.
Fitzgerald said after he received the recommendation and considered the concerns that were raised, he wanted to gauge the views of the key stakeholders before making his recommendation to Cabinet.
Those included representatives from the Union of Tertiary Educators of The Bahamas (UTEB), The College of The Bahamas Union of Students (COBUS), the Public Service Union and alumni, all of whom threw their support behind Smith, according to Fitzgerald.
“These bodies went further and sent a joint letter to me indicating that they were in complete support of the council’s recommendation,” he said.
Fitzgerald said the wider community had mixed views that were in some cases very strong.
He said many people supported Smith and felt he should be given another chance.
Others felt that once Smith showed contrition he should be forgiven, and there were those who strongly opposed the reappointment.
“With this last view, I was surprised,” Fitzgerald said.
“I must admit that this view was not widely shared by the majority of professionals I spoke with in academia and the overwhelming support by the college community reflects that this was not a view they shared.
“I also found it instructive that the former vice chancellor of the University of the West Indies, Rex Nettleford, now deceased, who is unquestionably one of the most respected personalities and academic leaders in the region, was the dissenting voice on the committee nine years ago.”
Fitzgerald was referring to the committee the College Council appointed to look into the plagiarism matter.
In 2005, Smith admitted and apologized for not properly using another academic’s material without attribution before a group of students at a COB Honours Convocation.
Smith alleged that the council forced him to resign even though it had been proven that his use of the material in the speech was not a violation of intellectual property rights.
Then Chairman of the Council Franklyn Wilson said Smith’s actions at the time were shocking.
He was referring to the statement that Smith alleged the council forced him to resign.
Four of the five panel members recommended termination.
In January, COB’s Advisory Search Committee, headed by retired Justice Rubie Nottage, announced that Smith was shortlisted for the vacant presidency post along with Dr. Gregory Carey, Dr. Philip Carey and Dr. Olivia Saunders.
The move put the circumstances surrounding Smith’s resignation back under the spotlight with many weighing in on the issue.
Wilson, who contributes significantly to the college, said recently it would be a “significant error for the country” if Smith is reappointed.
Nottage shot back and said the presidental search was fair, transparent and open to public scrutiny.
She said that none of the two presidents appointed under Wilson’s chairmanship were “subjected to such a process”.
Since then, Justice Joseph Strachan, a retired judge who wrote the special report in 2005 recommending Smith’s termination, said the plagiarism issue should not be enough to block his return.
Retired Anglican Archbishop Drexel Gomez, another member of that 2005 panel, expressed a similar view to The Nassau Guardian.
Earlier this month, Smith said he made a “serious mistake” in 2005 and added that he will never make such a mistake again.
During yesterday’s press conference, UTEB President Mark Humes, said he anticipates the full support of the college community and looks forward to a “new era” of leadership as the college transitions to university status.
Representatives of the Public Service Union, COBUS and UTEB made similar remarks.
Smith is currently the vice president for administration services, operation analysis and research at Hampton University.
During his presentation to the college community in March, Smith said if successful he would implement policies to ensure students and faculty are held accountable for any breach of intellectual property rights.
He pledged to establish a fundraising committee that would create partnerships with local and international private foundations.
He also said if successful he would reduce the college’s reliance on government subventions from 51 percent to 35 percent; tuition and fees from 44 percent to 33 percent, and increase auxiliary, sales and services from five percent to 15 percent.
Fitzgerald said yesterday that officials are involved in contract talks with Smith, who is expected to start in his new position in the fall.
The contract will be for three years.