The chairwoman of the board of the University College of the Cayman Islands, Sheree Ebanks, resigned last week, citing concerns over conflicts of interest in her primary job as head of the Cayman accountants association.
Ms. Ebanks came under fire recently when she called UCCI’s business administration associate’s degree “essentially meaningless.” She subsequently issued a statement to clarify her comments.
She said she told Education Minister Tara Rivers about her plans to resign in November, but the minister asked her to stay on until a financial review of UCCI had been completed. She did not share her decision with the university president or the board until March 5.
“It’s a great organization and I’m really going to miss it,” Ms. Ebanks told the Cayman Compass. But, she explained, she has a board of her own to report to and there were concerns about conflicts of interest when part of her job is pushing for educational opportunities for the accounting industry at both UCCI and the International College of the Cayman Islands.
Ms. Ebanks served on the UCCI board for 18 months. She said she accepted the board position before the Cayman Islands Society of Professional Accountants hired her as its new CEO.
The deputy chairman of the UCCI board, Linford Pierson, said he was not surprised that Ms. Ebanks resigned citing concerns about potential conflicts of interest, but he said he was surprised that she did not notify the board earlier.
Mr. Pierson said Ms. Ebanks told him and the president of the university the same day she told the board of governors.
He said the university is in a period of transition. “Change is not always easy to accept,” he said, but the board will “assist in any way we can to bring about positive change.”
UCCI is in the process of reviewing its finances and looking to cut more than $500,000 from its budget. Ms. Ebanks said earlier that some courses were not financially viable and should be cut along with the summer semester to save costs.
The report recommends cutting about a quarter of the current full-time faculty through “natural attrition” as professors leave and are not replaced.
At a press conference releasing the report last month, Ms. Ebanks said, “I come from the private sector, and if somebody came to me with an associate degree, I’m really not going to pay much attention. I’m looking for at least a bachelor’s. I’m really looking for a master’s. An associate degree in this day and age is pretty much meaningless.”
No date has been set yet to appoint a new board member, but Mr. Pierson said he hopes “government will soon make an appointment” to the open seat.
Minister Rivers, who has ultimate authority over UCCI and the board of governors, did not respond to requests for comment.