January 3, 2021

ASUU-LASU faults VC selection process, seeks Sanwo-Olu’s intervention

The Lagos State University (LASU) chapter of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) has expressed lack of confidence in the selection process of the institution’s ninth vice-chancellor.

The names of three candidates have been forwarded to Babajide Sanwo-Olu, governor of Lagos, who is expected to announce a new VC soon.

However, there have been complaints from different quarters on the exercise.

In a letter signed by Tony Dansu, its secretary, and Adeolu Oyekan, assistant secretary, the union accused a top-level management staff of the institution, of not following laid down rules in the selection process. The staff also serves as the head of the selection committee.

ASUU-LASU said if concrete steps are not taken, the current situation could plunge the institution into a fresh round of crisis.

“Our Union has watched with disgust, the unfolding controversies in the public domain over the selection process of a new Vice-Chancellor for Lagos State University. We are most dismayed that a process expected to be seamless and acceptable to all parties based on its credibility, transparency and legality has become enmeshed in many avoidable controversies that are capable of precipitating new crises and aggravating old ones within the University. It is for this reason that we have been forced to break our silence over the unfolding process, as the situation may plunge the University into crisis if not well handled.

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“We wish to express in very clear terms, our disappointment in the way and manner the selection process was made to deviate from established university norms, thereby bringing the institution into disrepute. For us, we are less concerned about the personal and extra-academic issues that are being brought into the contests by surrogates of some of the contestants, based on our belief that it is always better and profitable to focus on the fidelity of the process. Almost always, good processes result in good products.

“Signs that the process would be marred by irregularities emerged after the advertisement for the position of the Vice-Chancellor was made, a few days after the inauguration of the 11th Governing Council, and before its first meeting. The belief of many is that not bringing the criteria for selection before the new Council for deliberation is a calculated attempt to present the Selection Committee with a fait acompli.

For instance, an advert that purported to improve on the 2015 exercise (in which possession of PhD was compulsory) by demanding 10 years post-professorial experience from all applicants failed to state explicitly that PhD is a compulsory requirement, though subsequent parts of it made PhD supervision and examination additional requirements, meaning implicitly that those who do not possess PhD degrees are ineligible (Nemo dat quod non habet). The omission is inexplicable, given that the University recently began to disengage longstanding academic staff without PhD. Note also, that the LASU PG School Regulations 13 and 14 on eligibility to teach, examine and supervise postgraduate theses make a PhD compulsory for PhD courses and thesis supervision.

“Simmering tensions heightened when the election of the Senate representatives on the Committee was held virtually, against reservations by some members of the University community, at a time the University had already resumed physical lectures and with hundreds of students in some classrooms. The virtual election platform of the University had suffered a serious integrity crisis since the controversial students’ elections of 2018, that resulted in many petitions and protests. We believe that a voting system that is open and transparent, under safe COVID19 protocols, could have given the process more credibility.

“To make matters worse, it would appear that the Selection Committee was unable to abide by the conditions stipulated in the advertisement for the position of Vice-Chancellor, as candidates who did not meet some of the clearly stated criteria (i.e, possessing 10 years post-professorial experience and having supervised PhD theses), scaled the shortlisting stage and even made it to the three (3) person list reportedly submitted to the Visitor. This development, more than any other, did great damage to the process, as many interested Professors within and outside LASU who could have been a part of the process shelved their ambitions in deference to the conditions.

To go ahead and shortlist applicants who did not fulfill the basic conditions, and also proceed to recommend them as reported, calls to question the parameters used by the Selection Committee in scoring the candidates. Granted that some requirements are subject to context (i.e, respectability among colleagues, leadership qualities, academic competence etc), there are some that are specific and determinable even by a layman.

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“Based on all that has happened so far, the questions that should agitate an objective mind, and which the Visitor may also pose, is whether all the shortlisted candidates: (a) possess 10 years post-professorial experience (b) have supervised and examined PhD candidates, and by the implication of this, (c) possess a PhD degree.

If there is any of the applicants who has not fulfilled even one of these conditions as required, then we are of the view that such OUGHT NOT to have been shortlisted, much less interviewed for the position of the Vice-Chancellor. One may also ask if the Committee used a different scoring metric from the one advertised, and if yes, further questions about how it arrived at same inevitably arise. What appears to be the case at the moment though, is that the Committee did not abide by its own metric of assessment.

“Given the heat generated so far by the process, it is important that the Visitor intervenes within the ambits of the law to ensure a hitch-free resolution. In a case where the list before the Visitor contains any name that does not meet any of the clearly stated requirements, it is only fair, for the sake of justice, transparency and the avoidance of crisis in the University, for such to be struck off the list.

The Visitor may then consider only those who meet the basic conditions. In a situation where none of the reportedly sent names meets any of the requirements, we recommend a review of the selection process. Since the University Law stipulates a recommendation of at least three names to the Visitor, we believe he may have to request from the Committee, the full list of all the applicants, and review the process to determine whether any of them meet the advertised conditions.

Failure to find any applicant appointable from the full pool of applicants, we request a cancellation of the entire process, with a fresh one commenced and concluded within the shortest possible time, preferably not exceeding a period of sixty (60) days.”

Vanguard News Nigeria