MASERU — Professor Sharon Siverts’ resignation on August 24 as vice chancellor of the National University of Lesotho (NUL) is not the first time she has thrown in the towel since joining the college in 2011.
Prior to August 24 Siverts had resigned twice, only to be persuaded by the 11th Council to stay on.
She first tendered her resignation on March 6, 2012, almost exactly a year after her appointment but she changed her decision after the council allegedly pleaded with her.
On January 6 this year Siverts resigned again but was persuaded by some council members withdraw her decision.
Siverts makes the revelations in the latest resignation letter she handed to the new NUL council chairman Mokhele Likate.
In her three-page letter seen by the Lesotho Times Siverts says she decided to leave after consultations with her family in the United States during her leave in August.
Siverts tells Likate that she has found it increasingly difficult to work at the university because of several problems that has been placed in her way.
She says her resignation is with effect from August 31 next year.
Siverts says because NUL people are not willing to change the university will continue to fall far behind other institutions of higher education, both regionally and internationally.
She laments that her efforts to restructure the university as instructed by the 11th Council have been frustrated at every turn.
“The university has been sleeping and has been in the doldrums for more than a decade,” Siverts says in her emotional letter.
“However, little has changed since my arrival, and many actions to improve the governance have been stifled or reversed, putting the university on a more severe negative trajectory.”
She says in her first year in office she noticed that there is a “deeply imbedded poisonous, non-trusting and resistant attitude at the university.”
“There is a desire to cling on to old modes of practice that prevent the university from meeting the challenges of the 21st century.
“People are comfortable being able to do what they want, when they want and how they want, a number milking the institution and not contributing to its improvement”.
Those who know that NUL is not competitive are fearful of speaking out, she alleges.
Siverts also had tough words for the 11th and 12th councils which she says have not shown strong commitment to drive institutional change.
She notes that although the external members of the 11th council “had commitment to institutional improvement” internal members resisted efforts to change.
She further warns that the 12th council should realise the need to change or it will continue to drive the university backward.
“Until the 12th council takes on good corporate governance and models it, takes on commitment to excellence, is dedicated to improve beyond the competition, direct and support change, it will fail.”
The vice chancellor also talks of the resistance she got from her management team when she tried to push for reform.
The problems in the management, she says, were caused by a few individuals who are resistant to change.
She says “almost all efforts to have a working team have failed”. “Regardless of efforts made, this has been an impossible management situation for the vice chancellor as well as for most members of the management team, which has also affected the work and morale at the university.”
Siverts adds that although there have been some efforts there has been, generally, a lack of political will to take on the problems affecting the university.
She says there have been few people who want to risk taking “the bull by its horns” and demand change.
“Until this changes and Council sees the need for change, and the sponsor (government) intervenes, NUL will remain where it is, continuing to move ‘against the current’ of innovation, quality, excellence and competitiveness.”
The professor also explains that by the end of her first year he had realised that her “goals and those of many at NUL were not congruent in terms of ‘quality and excellence’.”
This, she adds, was reinforced in her second year and continues.
“Thus, I have decided that my integrity and values can no longer be compromised and that it was not in my interest or that of NUL to remain where values and commitment are not in sync.”
“Further, it is not healthy to have perpetual conflict, have senior management that cannot vision and work towards a new future for NUL, and have staff that do not pull together and help each other, do not respect each other, including not having the skills to tackle their jobs.”