Appointment of Siverts as new NUL VC suspicious

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THE long drawn-out process to employ the next vice-chancellor (VC) for the National University of Lesotho (NUL) has finally come to an end.

By the time it ended, its credibility was in tatters.

This was due to the selectors’ public expressions of support for their preferred candidate in the early stages of the process and throughout the process.

In the end the job was given to an American, Sharon Siverts.

In my opinion it was a real shame that the NUL Council withdrew the offer that it had made to Professor Slay.

This was a big loss to NUL.

As with our immediate previous VC, we have employed a person whose record is unknown to NUL authorities.

She comes here after stints in Botswana, Uganda, and some American university in one Middle Eastern country.

It is not clear whether in any of these places people were sorry to see her leave.

Siverts was of course not the best candidate.

Although the committee rated her second among the three shortlisted candidates, some of us would have put her last.

In public presentations by candidates in November 2010, Siverts’ presentation studiously avoided any reference to her success, or failure, in any of the universities she had worked.

Professors Sejanamane and Slay’s presentations were strong because they quoted concrete experiences to support their claims to what they could do as VCs.

Sivert’s presentation hung in the air and was not anchored in any concrete experience as a vice-chancellor or university administrator, anywhere.

And she was the oldest of the four candidates who were interviewed.

The NUL Council is employing her at 65.

This is the age at which NUL retires its employees.

If she has agreed to a five-year contract, she will be 70 years old by the time her term expires.

Of course there is rumour that she has been employed on a shorter-term contract to do the hatchet-job of closing down NUL, firing all staff and asking them to re-apply for their jobs, and ensuring that those who are considered obnoxious are not re-employed. 

Her scholarly track record is unimpressive.

This means we cannot expect any meaningful intellectual leadership from her.

On the plus side, it may be that she will be a good administrator, and maybe the VC’s office will be relocated to its more dignified original place at Ground Floor of the Administration Block.

Apart from public expressions of support for Siverts’ candidature by some members of the committee charged with the responsibility to identify the best candidate, there are many other signs that somebody was hell-bent on making sure she was given the job.

For example, Professor Slay, the candidate who came out tops in the interviews, was bypassed when she asked to serve notice with her current employer.

All of a sudden the NUL Council wanted to fill the VC’s position so urgently that this candidate could not be allowed to leave her current employer honourably.

There is something disingenuous about this.

It does look like somebody was so committed to Siverts that they would use any excuse to have her as vice-chancellor at NUL.

May be our next advertisement for the position of VC should read: NUL is looking for a VC.

Applicants should be prepared to desert their employer immediately.

NUL will not entertain questions about serving notice with their current employer.

The simple truth is that our previous VC (may his soul rest in peace) passed on early in 2010.

University authorities then dragged their feet and took more than eight months to employ a new vice-chancellor.

Why wasn’t the urgency displayed from the beginning?

Employers who know what they are doing know that, if they advertise positions, the best applicants will be holding jobs, and that, if they are decent professionals, they might request to serve notice before joining new organisations.

That being the case, the process of recruitment is started and finalised promptly with a view to ensure that (a) the organisation, or institution, is not left in conditions of uncertainty for too long, and that (b) the best candidate will be afforded an opportunity to leave her/his current job honourably.

If I was a sinner, I would pray that Siverts cause her backers at NUL a lot of grief with excessive demands for money to support an expensive lifestyle and tastes. I hope she does.

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