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Former Registrar Condemns Smith

A founding father of the College of The Bahamas (COB) yesterday gave a dismal prediction of the tertiary institution’s future if Dr. Rodney Smith is reappointed its president.

Former COB Registrar Roger Brown said COB would be become the laughing stock of the academia community, a move he believes would also besmirch the country’s reputation, particularly in the region.

“I believe the persons who are recommending Mr. Smith have not looked at or understood what we were saying when we decided on the college’s motto: Knowledge, Truth and Integrity. You cannot now appoint someone like Mr. Smith to lead the college into its next phase of existence as a university,” Dr Brown said when he called into the Love 97 daily talk show “Issues of the Day” on Thursday with host Wendall Jones.

Dr. Brown is not alone in his sentiments.

Long time COB Lecturer Felix Bethel has also made no secret of his objection to what the Council recommends.

Speaking passionately on the issue during Thursday’s show, Mr. Bethel said he does not believe COB’s search for a president should be turned into a popularity contest, as there should be consequences for human action.

Dr. Smith resigned as COB president in 2005 after admitting he had plagiarised a portion of a New York University (NYU) president’s speech.

In his defence, the College Council said Dr. Smith was selected its preferred candidate for a number of reasons, among them his extensive leadership experience, impressive credentials, and in-depth knowledge of the institutional mechanisms that are needed to ensure peak performance levels in all areas of the operation of an academic institution.

The Advisory Search Committee (ASC) said it also found that Dr. Smith was the candidate best able to articulate the vision of the Council and the mandate of the government for leading the college through the process of becoming recognised as a university in 2015.

The COB Council also emphasised that the search process was open, fair, transparent, and respectful of stakeholder interests.

“For both the ASC and council, the only question mark that hung over Dr. Smith’s candidacy for president of the college was the circumstances that led Dr. Smith to leave the college in 2005 after having served as its president for approximately a year,” a release explained.

“Notwithstanding this concern, ASC members and council members were of the view that Dr. Smith was, undoubtedly, the best candidate for the position of president of COB. In reaching this position, the ASC and council considered that Dr. Smith deserved a second chance because he had assumed responsibility for his actions that led to his resignation, had voluntarily resigned because of the act of plagiarism attributed to him, had suffered public humiliation, and had – in his various interview-encounters with ASC and council members – shown sufficient contrition over the circumstances that led to his resignation from the college in 2005.”

Council members also determined that notwithstanding the price and public humiliation Dr. Smith had experienced over the affair, he had been able to “weather the storm” and excel within the academic arena in the United States.

But Mr. Bethel is not buying the argument of “second chances” and referring to Dr. Smith as the prodigal son.

“On his return, the prodigal son a la Rodney Smith should have asked the prime minister and Cabinet to put him in a low position in the College of the Bahamas or this country, so that he could continue to pay penance for his egregious wrong,” he said.

“The prodigal son has returned and it is as if he has never left. It is a shame and an absolute disgrace….Nothing has changed to show that Rodney Smith is penitent; absolutely nothing. He comes back with a plagiarised copy concerning how much he loves The Bahamas and the queen and all of that. I buy none of it.”

The college professor said it is a situation that even more important than the firestorm surrounding Ministry of Works Parliamentary Secretary Renward Wells and a letter of intent to build a $650 million waste-to-energy plant at the New Providence landfill.

“There is no dollar value to be put on the integrity of the academy…The vast majority of the children of the ruling elite, they don’t come to the College of The Bahamas. Their children go to elite universities, where it is known that the presidents are not plagiarists. Come on, we deserve the best for our people. You cannot give the people hog slop and potcake,” Mr. Bethel charged.

Despite forwarding its recommendation to the government nearly a month ago, there has still been on word on Cabinet’s decision.

But according to Mr Bethel, Cabinet would be lowering its standard if it were to follow what the college council is recommending.

In fact, he believes the council, as headed by former Education Minister Alfred Sears, should tender its resignation as it has already been repudiated. Had they not been he said, Education Minister Jerome Fitzgerald would have already signed off on their recommendation.

“…To reach the point where all I have worked for is going to be carried in the mud by a man who left this country when he could have stayed and stood with me in helping to build this institution and now he’s going to come in and rubble it because somebody says he’s the best thing we could ever have, it’s a lie from the pit of hell,” Mr. Bethel said choked with emotion.

When asked if he would work with Dr Smith if he were reappointed to head COB, Mr. Bethel admitted he would find it difficult.

“Rodney David Smith will never on God’s green Earth get my principle support on anything he has to do because I believe he’d be in the post illegitimately,” he charged.

Written by Macushla Pinder

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