EDITORIAL – Cayman government: UCCI’s ‘silent partner’

In dating parlance, “ghosting” refers to ending a relationship by simply severing communication with a significant other, rather than confronting them, calling them or even leaving them a “Dear John.”

Suddenly and with no explanation, voicemails and text messages are left unreturned, in the hope that the “ghostee” takes the hint and moves on down the road. Nevertheless, “ghosting” is widely regarded as a cowardly and disrespectful dating tactic.

It’s doubly suspect when it occurs in the professional world, and particularly when the person doing the “ghosting” is your boss – which is the situation in which the University College of the Cayman Islands board of governors apparently finds itself.

Bewildered UCCI board chairman Lemuel Hurlston said that Education Minister Juliana O’Connor-Connolly has not once met with the UCCI board since the May 2017 election, despite the board’s repeated requests.

(We are reminded of the National Conservation Council’s inability to secure a tete-a-tete with Environment Minister Dwayne Seymour, amid speculation about the council’s future, or lack thereof, which we wrote about last October.)

Additionally, on a narrower legal issue concerning the government funding of UCCI and control over curricula, the entire Ministry of Education, as well as the Office of the Solicitor General, went radio-silent on the college for six weeks. Then, without notice, the board was presented with signed documents successfully securing the government’s $4 million annual check to the college (which has a total budget of $7.5 million).

“I was pleasantly surprised,” said Mr. Hurlston.

The education ministry’s, and education minister’s, prolonged snub of UCCI comes during a critical time, not only for the college but for the future of higher education in our country – and just at a moment when it is especially vital for avenues of information to be kept wide open.

As it so happens, both UCCI and the private International College of the Cayman Islands are in a period of transition, as each is engaged in a search for a candidate to fill the vacant (or in UCCI’s case, soon-to-be-vacant) office of the president.

Meanwhile, the oft-pondered but never-advanced idea of somehow combining UCCI and ICCI has emerged in embryonic form, with the UCCI board approving a “federation agreement” with ICCI, which would enable the two colleges to collaborate on courses and to seek international accreditation as a single entity. Next, the proposal will be laid on ICCI’s table for consideration.

We are lukewarm on the concept of “federation,” viewing it as, at best, a half-step. What does quicken the pulse, however, is the tremendous potential that could be created by joining the resources and talents of UCCI and ICCI together as a single whole that, in turn, could draw universal support from the people of Cayman.

As we have said before, both UCCI and ICCI are searching for new presidents.

That doesn’t mean the colleges are leaderless, however. UCCI is extremely fortunate to have as its board chairman Mr. Hurlston, who of course is well-known and highly esteemed throughout Cayman, not the least for his impeccable track record as a public servant, including as the territory’s Chief Secretary and Deputy Governor.

His counterpart at ICCI is Mike Mannisto, who is held in equal regard in the community, and is a partner at Ernst & Young accounting firm.

These capable gentlemen grasp the vision of delivering superior higher education in Cayman through collaboration rather than divisiveness.

There is, however, a third member to this tertiary triumvirate – Education Minister O’Connor-Connolly. Without the input and support of Ms. O’Connor-Connolly, her ministry and her government, there is little in the way of the transformational that Mr. Hurlston, Mr. Mannisto, UCCI and ICCI can effect.

Our country has the means, and we believe the will, to establish a superior higher education institution in Cayman. But in order to be successful, we have to do it together.

Minister O’Connor-Connolly: Please, pick up your phone. Schedule an appointment. Join our country’s cause.

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