UTEB on Dr. Rhonda Chipman-Johnson’s Unexpected Retirement

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<<< Dr. Rhonda Chipman-Johnson

The Union of Tertiary Educators of the Bahamas (UTEB), which represents faculty at the College of the Bahamas, remains in a state of shock by the recent flurry of actions taken by the “inner circle” of the College Council (T.B. Donaldson, Judy Whitehead, Diane Sands-Stewart, and Janyne Hodder) as they seek to appoint/anoint a new president by skirting and reinterpreting the established laws of the College Act of 2001.

On Friday, June 11, 2010, UTEB learned from media reports of Dr. Rhonda Chipman-Johnson’s retirement from the College. The following Monday, June 14, 2010, The Union received official confirmation of this fact in an email from the Office of Communication. At the same time, we also learned of Dr. Earla Carey-Baines’ appointment as the new President of the College.

As usual, UTEB, or any of the other major stakeholder groups in the College, was not consulted by the inner circle of the Council on this appointment decision – another example of the lack of transparency and accountability that plagues this institution.

However, after getting a chance to assess and get a better understanding of what has taken place at the nation’s premier institution in the last few days, the Union is, first, very concerned about the apparent disrespectful treatment of a long serving, talented, and very productive member of the COB family, Dr. Rhonda Chipman Johnson.  The approach taken by the inner Council in the “installation” of a President – whether interim, acting, or permanent – again, appears to be an underhanded one, as even the College’s own accounting of Dr. Chipman Johnson’s record of service to the College indicates that she was deserving of more honourable treatment than the one she was given last week.

By appointing a Dean as President over the former Executive Vice-President and any of the other four extremely experienced Vice Presidents at the College, the College Council continues to do a great disservice to the integrity of the College and the presidential search process, thwart the intent of the College Act, and deeply injure the faith that faculty, staff, students, and the public have in the ability of the Council to represent, protect, and guide – without the influence of petty politics – this publically funded institution.  In saying that this must end, we question the process and the criteria(s) used, leading to the selection of Dr. Carey-Baines as President in this instance.

While UTEB, on more than one occasion, has shared our concerns with the public about how the truth has been hidden, changed, and rearranged by the College Council and former President Hodder, we are particularly stunned and concerned by the direct untruths told to those in the College community in the June 13th release sent out by the Office of Communication which states: “Dr. Rhonda Chipman-Johnson who retires after a near 31 year career at The College, has been offered and has accepted an overseas position from the Government of The Bahamas.”

The Union has since learned that there is no overseas job appointment for Dr. Chipman-Johnson and sees this news coming from the College’s office of Communications as the latest in a series of bold-faced lies that the institution continues to put out – at the request of the Council and former President Hodder – in an attempt to save face. First it was the lies about the Union’s negotiation proposal, now it is about Dr. Chipman-Johnson.  Again, this must end!

Sadly, because of the Council’s spiteful actions, the College of The Bahamas has lost the service, insight, knowledge, and heartfelt work of a great institution and nation builder in Dr. Chipman-Johnson.  And because of the action taken – despite our respect for Dr. Earla Carey-Baines, whom we congratulate and caution at the same time, we are extremely concerned going forward as to how long it will take the institution to heal.

At a time when we are trying to work on accomplishing our primary goal of securing and having a new Industrial Agreement in place for our faculty before the beginning of the new academic year – a process that we are determined to complete no matter who is president – the Union feels that the College Council owes the college community a truthful explanation of its recent action, and we hope that Mr. Donaldson will step outside of his contemptuous nature and respectfully address the faculty, staff, and students of this institution.

In closing, the Union believes that one day the College will be able to truly get things right and justly be a beacon of light for the country, a beacon that is in fact autonomous and free from political interference.  The Union also feels that The College of the Bahamas – soon to be University of the Bahamas – will one day live up to its motto: “knowledge, truth, and integrity.”