The University of the Virgin Islands (UVI) is undergoing growth and transformation. With Vision 2012 and a new Academic Master Plan, the University seeks to improve to a Masters I institution. We have embarked on a number of strategies to adopt the best practices in higher education in regards to (1) institutional restructuring; (2) improving the quality of intellectual development of students; (3) aligning the hiring and personnel practices with accrediting bodies and new trends among peer institutions. The People of the Virgin Islands deserve an excellent university in the Territory. We have worked tirelessly in pursuit of that objective.
A few letters have been sent to the media that suggest something untoward has been occurring at the University in regards to hiring, resignation, and retention. In particular, Dr. David Gould has written about challenges within the Communication Program. As does everyone within the University and beyond, Dr. Gould has a right to his opinion but not to his facts. We wish to clarify a few facts and to reaffirm that UVI is focused on the achievement of its mission in an appropriate manner.
First, the University does not discuss personnel matters or confidential matters of faculty members, especially when they were applicants of a national search.
An internal applicant for the Communication vacancy, who held a temporary appointment as a Visiting Associate Professor, resigned effective August 13, 2008 and the University has respected and accepted the wishes of that faculty member.
It must first be noted that even though the University routinely has internal applicants in a search process, the University is required by law, as recipients of federal funds, to comply with all the federal statutes regarding equal employment opportunity (EEOC) for all applicants. The University is committed to a fair, just, ethical and legal treatment of all applicants irrespective of whether we know them or not. University Administration cannot discuss confidential matters that arose within a search process.
As a requirement of Middle States accreditation, the University has to decrease the number of part-time faculty and increase the number of full-time faculty. The University has systematically increased the number of full-time faculty. The 2008/2009 academic year has begun with 15 faculty members hired, including two new Communications faculty. This is 8 new faculty lines above the 2005/2008 level. In these economic times, it is a remarkable accomplishment for a university of our size.
To build programs and have them accredited by national entities, instructors are sought who have doctoral and/or terminal degrees in the specific area. For example, an Assistant Professor of Music must have at least a Master of Fine Arts in Music to teach or an Associate Professor of History must have at least a doctorate in History to teach. A faculty member in Communications must have a degree in Communications.
The University advertisement for the Assistant Professor of Journalism specifically stated, "Assistant or Associate Professor of Journalism: A Ph.D. in Communications or a related field is required." The finalist for the tenure track position had to fit that criterion. Our accrediting agency, the Middle States Commission on Higher Education, expects no less.
Under certain stressful conditions, the University hires instructors to teach a program outside of their specific degree areas for a short time when the appropriate faculty cannot be found. However, this practice of teaching outside of specialty cannot be allowed to continue indefinitely.
The Communication program did not start yesterday; it has been steadily growing during the last five years and the success has been the effort of several past and current faculties. UVI has a degree program in Communication, not Journalism (an area of concentration). Communication is a much broader discipline. Most Journalism classes that were scheduled for fall 2008 will be held. A single class COM 312 that had less than the minimum ten (10) students to be kept open was postponed until spring 2009. As with many other institutions of higher learning, UVI has a low-enrollment course cancellation policy. When a class is undersubscribed, the University has a fiduciary obligation to cancel the class.
The preparation of UVI's faculty, staff and students is exceptional. For instance, the University has participated in the nationally renowned assessment of student learning administered independently by the Collegiate Learning Assessment (CLA) for the past two years. During the 2007-2008 Academic Year, the CLA reported that the "University of the Virgin Islands contributes more to the learning gains made by students than 94 percent of the 176 four-year undergraduate institutions participating in the 2007-2008 CLA." Student are evaluated for their ability in Performance Task, Analytic Writing, Make-an-Argument and Critique-an-Argument. In this area, the University of the Virgin Islands performed "Well Above Expected." UVI students won the Thurgood Marshal/ETS Presidential Award for 2008/2009. They spent summers working in prestigious labs across the country. Thus, we are successfully recruiting and exceeding our enrollment targets. The University is not perfect, but it is as committed to student success and community engagement as is any other university.
Between 2005/2006 and 2007/2008 the University awarded tenure or tenure in waiting to 14 out of the 15 applicants for that honor. We challenge anyone to find a reputable university with a 93% tenure success rate.
In these tough economic times, the Government of the Virgin Islands spent more than $3 million between 2005 and 2007 to adjust and bring the salaries of faculty and staff to market levels. It was a sacrifice the Territory made to promote higher education. The University is unequivocally committed to its students, faculty, staff and community.
Dr. Malik Sekou
University of the Virgin Islands
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