Press release from the WIFOL

Over the past few months, the WIFOL has, in good faith, tried everything in the form of dialogue and negotiation—from meetings with the president, the dean, the secretary of the board and other board members, and most recently with the commissioner responsible for education—in an effort to restore semblance of normalcy at the University of St. Martin. One of the main problems at USM has to do with the lack of recognition and acceptance of the Management Team, consisting of a majority of educated and qualified St. Martiners, whose legal function the new board has refused to accept and recognize. The current Board of Directors consists of Chairwoman Lockie Johnson; other members are Valerie Giterson-Pantophlet, Cees Jan Roos, Danny Ramchandani, Franklyn Watson, Wycliffe Smith, and Claudette Labega-Forsythe.


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The Management Team—consisting of the president, the former dean, admissions director, marketing director, registrar, director of student affairs, and the financial controller—has been in place for the last 12 years and has been responsible for the daily operations and management of the USM, under less than favorable financial and social conditions. Without any prior discussions with members of the Management Team, the board has brought into existence a so-called Leadership Team, excluding members of the Management Team, to substitute the Management Team’s functioning.

When staff voiced their dissatisfaction with the actions of the board (such hiring people illegally, conflicts of interest, etc.) and its agents, there have been serious repercussions, including intimidation, harassment, threats, exclusion from meetings and other functioning, bypassing key personnel in their official capacity, and the issuance of warning letters which are uncalled for.

Clearly this new board has not done its homework in assessing the ability of the Management Team. From the observation in the discussions with this group, WIFOL realizes that the members of the Management Team are a group of competent, qualified, young St. Martiners, with a clear vision toward higher education on St. Martin. The present Dean of Academic Affairs and the CFO, who have retired from their past functions, have proven to be incapable of giving any guidance to the new St. Martiner. Furthermore, not even having counterparts, according to the new labor policy, is a slap in the face of young, qualified St. Martiners.

Because of personal issues between the president of USM and the president of the Board, we are seeing this crisis period being prolonged. In the interest of education and the interest of St. Martin in its new constitutional status, we think that the entire Board, along with the so-called Leadership Team, should do the honorable thing and resign and allow new, competent, and qualified professionals to take over, as they are incapable of running the University.

The public should also know that the Board made everyone to believe that accreditation was the main objective for USM to move forward. However, until recently, Board representatives have said that accreditation is no longer a priority, and the Board is yet to work out its vision for USM.

According to WIFOL, this is another sign of clear confusion on the Board and Leadership Team levels. As far as the WIFOL is concerned, the future of our young people is at stake. Education is the key to success, and as stated very clearly, the current Board and its present Leadership Team are not capable of giving that leadership that is relevant to establish St. Martin and St. Martiners as capable of handling their affairs.

Annually government spends thousands of guilders for education, scholarships, etc., and the role of USM is becoming increasingly important to the community and economic growth and stability of the island. WIFOL recognizes the importance of developing our human resources and it is obvious that the current board members and the Leadership Team do not know where they are going. Therefore, because of a lack of vision, they are going around in circles, while on the other hand, blocking the progress of the young, educated, St. Martiners who want to see the new St. Martin stand up and be counted among other Caribbean nations.

WIFOL strongly believes that the strength of St. Martin’s future in being a new nation, resilient to outside influences culturally, politically, socially, and economically lies in its young people.

As a progressive workers organization, we will not stand by the wayside and see the dreams and aspirations of our youth go to waste, and we see USM as the nucleus to the prosperity and the total growth and development of its human capital. Nevertheless, WIFOL is willing to work with everyone to accomplish this reality.