St. Maarten University’s struggles, role become key talking points at graduation

POSTED: 06/20/11 1:04 PM

Arrindell asks, “Is it revenge…”

St. Maarten – Minister of Education, Culture, Youth and Sport Rhoda Arrindell has queried whether it is revenge to want the University of St. Martin’s programs to be accredited in such a way that the students can seamlessly transfer credits of use their degree anywhere else in the world. She posed the question Saturday night at USM’s graduation, which was also a partial reflection on the tertiary institution’s challenges.

The Minister has been criticized in recent days for telling school boards to not accept the teachers who graduate from the university’s teaching program and reportedly refusing to sign their degrees and certificates as part of a revenge mission and having a score to settle over the way things went when she was a faculty member and union representative at the university. On Saturday she said it was not true, even pointing out that in the current system the St. Maarten Minister of Education does not sign degrees.

“Maybe that should change,” she said.

“I ask you is it revenge to want USM to meet international standards? Is it revenge that I want USM to hire the right personnel,” Arrindell queried later.

The Minister would go on to state her commitment to USM’s advancement by announcing that rather than travelling she’s made it her business to be her on June 29 to sign a Memorandum of Understanding between the University of St. Maarten and Monroe College. She also stressed her view that USM “has a pivotal role in building our nation” as part of her denial of being on a revenge mission.

Chairman of the Board at USM Valerie Giterson-Pantophlet also stressed the role of USM going forward and called Saturday evening’s commencement exercise an opportunity to reflect.

“Despite the daunting challenges we have faced we will continue the discussion on how we restore trust in USM. Today, more than ever, St. Maarten needs USM and that is why we are re-establishing articulation agreements and our President Annalies van den Assem will be engaged in exploring broad directions to take USM to the next level. In this we will need government’s support and acknowledgement,” Giterson-Pantophlet said.

Though she gave no specific figures or situations, USM’S new president – van den Assem – was blunt saying this is one of the most difficult periods in USM’s history. She also sees this dark period as an opportunity.

“This moment is USM’s moment,” van den Assem.

The USM president is clear however that this challenging period can and will end because of the determination she’s seen in USM’S stakeholders – the Council of Ministers, the Ministry of Education, and the primary and secondary schools that provide USM’s eventual students.

Delivering USM to its own brighter future will begin with an audit of the university’s programs. The review will focus on determining what is viable on the long run, how the university can use technology to offer courses without incurring high costs and what universities in the Netherlands and the United States articulation agreements should be signed with so students can participate in fully accredited programs and courses. The consultation round of the review begins this week with the government and will continue for the coming period. Secondary Schools, potential students and the business community will all be consulted as part of the review.

The keynote speaker at the graduation Vivian Roberts and Alex Shujah Reiph, who spoke on behalf of the graduating class, also touched on the turmoil the University has been and is going through.

Roberts said, “I call on the powers that be to find a quick and lasting solution. Good has come from USM and even better can come out in the future. All of my accomplishments at the tertiary level is because USM was right here. SO I ask that you do all that you can and a little more to make sure no one scoffs when USM’S name is mentioned.”

“Each and every St. Maarten family should have a graduate of USM in it and this institution must be at the foundation of a free, democratic and independent St. Maarten. We must also seek out our young professionals who are professors and bring them home to teach in our university,” Reiph added as he also pressed for the University to start a Bachelors in Literature program to nurture budding authors.

 

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