NATION

Armstrong Hits Back At Pal

In a four-page email, Deputy Vice Chancellor (Research, Innovation and International) Professor Derrick Armstrong reminded Professor Ahluwalia that the institution’s financial crisis has little to do with COVID-19 but rather his leadership
01 Oct 2020 10:40
Armstrong Hits Back At Pal
University of South Pacific Deputy Vice Chancellor (Research, Innovation and International) Professor Derrick Armstrong (left) and University of the South Pacific Vice Chancellor and president Professor Pal Ahluwalia (right).

The University of the South Pacific’s number two has hit back at Vice Chancellor Professor Pal Ahluwalia in a scathing email following staff consultations on Monday on USP’s proposed restructure.

In a four-page email, Deputy Vice Chancellor (Research, Innovation and International) Professor Derrick Armstrong reminded Professor Ahluwalia that the institution’s financial crisis has little to do with COVID-19 but rather his leadership.

Professor Ahluwalia had announced that all except one staff from the senior management team had voluntarily agreed to take a five per cent pay cut and reduction in benefits. That lone staff member happens to be Professor Armstrong.

In the email

Professor Armstrong wrote: “Let me make my position very clear. If the crisis that the university now faces had been brought on by COVID-19 or any other crisis that was beyond our power to control I would have willingly taken a five per cent or much larger cut in salary.

“I have consistently argued that senior staff should bear the brunt of any financial damage that might arise from the COVID-19 crisis. However, it is very clear that the crisis in the university’s finances is not COVID-19 related.”

The impacts of COVID-19, he said had been marginal compared to the significant deferral of funding that followed from Professor Ahluwalia’s attacks on the integrity of USP’s governance and a direct result of the allegations against Professor Ahluwalia which have not been satisfactorily investigated or resolved.

He added that the crisis will not be resolved and no staff member will be relieved of the stressful burden of looming pay cuts, and possible job losses until there is a full and “independent” investigation of the numerous charges levied against Professor Ahluwalia.

Letter by Professor Derrick Armstrong.

Letter by Professor Derrick Armstrong.

Responding to claims

Responding to claims that the research area of the university is not performing under his leadership, Professor Armstrong found it problematic that Professor Ahluwalia made such unfounded comments in his absence during the staff consultation and he was not given an opportunity to challenge it.

He also found it problematic that Professor Ahluwalia had made one statement to the University Grants Committee and provided a contrary and inaccurate statement to staff.

“As the leader of this institution, I would expect greater honesty from you in the reporting of these facts. Your decision to demean me and falsely represent the quality of my performance in my central portfolios reflects poorly on your leadership because, in spite of the challenges, USP continues to perform admirably in the research and international areas,” he said.

“Those are the praises that you should be singing rather than administering personal attacks, which are then echoed in far more derogatory ways by your supporters in the abusive, slanderous and threatening social media posts that I have come to expect.”

New research initiatives:

1. More than FJD$4 million funding for the One Ocean Hub project funded by UK’s Global Challenges Research Fund involving researchers from all three faculties and PaCE-SD.

2. A second prestigious UK Global Challenges Research Fund project valued at FJD $850,000 in collaboration with the University of Cambridge.

3. FJD $771,000 funding from the EU Horizon 2020 research funding programme to PaCE-SD and the School of Agriculture, with additional funding for the Pacific Islands Research Universities Network managed through USP’s Research Office.

4. 24 PhD scholarships and research administration funding totaling FJD $7m from the Norwegian Government in partnership with the University of Bergen.

5. Contract worth more than FJD $2m signed between USP and the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research for Masters and PhD scholarships, research support and partnership building opportunities.

6. The Cerulean project funded by Swire Shipping which will provide nearly FJD $8m public-private funding together with approximately another FJD $4m operational funding which will directly create employment in Fiji.

7. A FJD $321,442 partnership with UNDP to establish a regional innovation hub with centers in regional campuses.

Edited by Naisa Koroi

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