University of The Bahamas (UB) President Dr. Rodney Smith yesterday announced that he withdrew his candidacy from West Virginia State University’s (WVSU) search for a new president.
His announcement came amid speculation over the future of leadership at University of The Bahamas, after it recently surfaced that Smith was one of three people being considered for the position at WVSU.
Two members of UB’s Board of Trustees said the affair caused an “unnecessary crisis”, as they noted they found out about his search through social media.
In a statement issued yesterday, Smith acknowledged that he should have informed the Board of Trustees sooner, but said he was distracted with UB’s financial issues.
“My commitment to UB remains strong,” he said.
“However, because my current contract is coming to an end, when I was notified that I was nominated for a presidency in early June, I decided to follow up.
“The search moved very quickly and while I was totally focused on the issues at UB, I was notified that I was one of three finalists. It was my fault that I did not inform the board right away.
“I was focused on UB’s financial dilemma. I followed through with the interviews. However, after being interviewed on Wednesday, July 1, I made the decision on the morning of Thursday, July 2, to withdraw my candidacy before that board of governors met to decide.”
Smith said he felt the need to seek employment elsewhere because he does not have a pension to rely on when he retires.
“I will be age 68 in July 2020 and the university must consider all persons when making reductions, the president included,” he said.
“Most universities have a policy in place, which allows former presidents to become professors at the end of their tenure as president.
“Although UB does not have such a plan in place, I was pleased to accept the reappointment as president of UB on an initial three-year contract, because I welcomed the idea of completing those plans that were begun during my first term as president of the institution.
“On a personal note, I hope it is understood that I do not have the benefit of a pension to lean back on. I will be 70 years old in 2022, when my contract with UB will expire. As my current five-year contract is coming to an end, I must begin to think about life after my time at UB has ended.
“University presidents commit to being on the job 365 days a year, seven days a week and 24 hours a day. If I do not begin to think about next steps, I will find myself unemployed following my current contract at UB. My search for new employment will in no way prevent me from performing my duties as president of UB.”
Smith, however, assured that he has every intention of fulfilling his mandate at UB.
“I will not abandon UB’s faculty, students and staff, as some have suggested,” he said.
“Over the next two years, we will focus on surviving these difficult times together, rebuilding UB-North and ensuring that UB has the right leader for the future, beginning in 2022.
“I regret that events this past week have added to the burden of uncertainty that already surrounds us.
“I regret that some persons have used confidential discussions to further spark the flames of uncertainties at this time in our lives.”
Smith said a UB task force has made a number of recommendations on measures to save money.
He said some of the suggestions overlapped with those from the Union of Tertiary Educators of The Bahamas (UTEB) President Daniel Thompson, who suggested UB place a moratorium on new hires and halt the renewal of contracts for faculty retirees and faculty over 70.
Thompson also suggested that UB engage retired faculty on a part-time basis, enhance energy saving by monitoring the usage of lights and air conditions, reduce overseas travel and revisit its outsourcing policy.
“Those recommendations that were not adopted by the task force have been noted,” Smith said in his statement.
“Although some are little utility in the current situation, it is hoped that they can be implemented once UB is on sounder financial footing.”
He added, “The university is still discussing options with the government and, to date, nothing has been finalized.”
Smith said UB will encourage employees who are eligible for pension to retire.
“This involves those who are vested in the government pension and who may continue to work as adjuncts,” he said.
“If adopted, this measure will, in the short-term, assist UB in becoming more financially sustainable and in the long-term, open faculty and staff positions to the next generation of professors and professionals currently studying and working in The Bahamas and abroad.”