Rodney Smith: We must rebuild UB North

University of The Bahamas (UB) President Dr. Rodney Smith yesterday dismissed rumors of a looming closure of UB North.

“If there is anything to be learned from past lessons, it is that with our collective imagination and ingenuity, success will eclipse our current adversities,” Smith said in a statement.

“We must rebuild UB North, and we will. We must regain the momentum that was started to enhance academic instruction and research, support student success, and equip the citizens of this country to make small businesses, industries and the economy more robust. We must prepare our students for better lives in this global society.”

He said the “priority” of the Grand Bahama campus, which was devastated by Hurricane Dorian in September, was “affirmed in the University of The Bahamas 2019-2024 Strategic Plan approved by the Board of Trustees”.

Smith said that plan outlines the objectives of identifying and acquiring a new location in downtown Freeport and repurposing, redesigning and reconstructing the current campus in East Grand Bahama.

“Through the leadership of VP of UB North, Dr. Ian Strachan, preliminary work has already commenced; architecture students have completed an architectural draft,” he said.

“Moving forward, we will continue to thoroughly envision and plan for a new campus that will meet the needs of the university community and those it serves. A part of this involves the acquisition of a new site and carefully solidifying the financial support that will be required. Together, we will work to make this happen.”

Strachan, who was appointed vice president of UB North in 2017, also issued a statement yesterday.

He said, “My focus is rebuilding UB North and I believe that is a no-brainer. I want to remind people that, before Dorian hit, we had over 500 students enrolled last August. That represented a 15 to 20 percent increase over the previous year.

“I also want to remind people that our residence hall had a 100 percent increase in occupants right before Dorian. Even as we speak, over 200 students have applied to attend UB North this August. With the right decisions, UB North can have 800 to 1, i000 students a year.”

Strachan suggested that the campus can act as a beacon of hope for Grand Bahama, which is still recovering from Dorian.

“People need hope. Education gives hope,” he said.

“And opportunity for a better life. Grand Bahamians, Biminites and Abaconians deserve hope and opportunity. Unemployed citizens should retrain at UB North. UB has had a physical presence here for over 30 years. Dorian and COVID are offering us a beautiful silver lining and that’s a new campus downtown.

“Despite the very difficult economic times the nation is facing, believe it or not, this is an excellent time to invest in education and our team believes that, here in Grand Bahama, a reimagined UB North can be a valuable tool in the island’s recovery and future growth.”

Strachan said investment in UB North’s new downtown campus could result in tens of millions of dollars circulating in Grand Bahama’s economy over the next four years.

He said it will lead to construction jobs as well as faculty and full time and part-time staff hires.

“We would see increased enrollment,” he said.

“We would see existing businesses expanding their operations. We would see new businesses birthed. We can revive dormant real estate in downtown Freeport and bring energy to this city.

“This could make Freeport more attractive to tourists as well. The new campus could have an art gallery, a museum, a small cinema, a large library and many other exciting cultural products and services that would serve residents and visitors alike.”

Last week, Minister of Education Jeffrey Lloyd said there was “no chance” that UB North will close.

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