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2005-08-30 16:20:53

Smith Drama Not Over

Criminally-minded society treats plagiarizing college president to a hero's welcome.

Calling the situation a "pointless and tragic fiasco former College of The Bahamas President Dr. Rodney Smith yesterday released a detailed statement lashing out at the College Council and informing that he was forced to resign over what some termed a plagiarism debacle.

Dr. Smith, who returned to C.O.B. to a hero's welcome on the first day of the start of the new academic year, held a private meeting in the college's auditorium to say goodbye to faculty and staff.

He also revealed in his 10-page statement - which he handed out - that he was recently hospitalized after being diagnosed with "bacterial pneumonia", which doctors believe he may have contracted while traveling on a plane on July 15.

Dr. Smith said even though he was still suffering from bacterial pneumonia and remained on medication, he returned to Nassau on Saturday July 30.

"I received a phone call from the chairman (Franklyn Wilson) the morning of the 31st of July at 7:30am and was asked to meet with him at his residence at 6:30pm that evening. When I arrived, I was surprised that two additional Council members were present: Mr. Simon Wilson of the Ministry of Finance and Dr. Earl Cash, attorney with Higgs and Johnson," he said.

Dr. Smith continued, "I was informed that the Council met and took a vote that I should submit my resignation effective immediately. When I asked what would happen if I did not, I was told that the Council 'would begin procedure for termination'.

"I was informed that the panel (which had been appointed to review that matter) which also included a retired magistrate was convinced that the Council had grounds for 'termination for cause'. I said I disagreed but was told by Dr. Earl Cash that even if I decided to fight this out in court it would cost in excess of $100,000.

"The chairman added that there would be significant damage to my career not to mention all the negative damage on the college. I asked if the Council met in my absence while I was ill. I was told yes. I asked if there was a majority two thirds vote for my termination and I was told yes."

Dr. Smith also said additional discussion followed on severance and possible consultation services.

"The three alternatives discussed were: a) A full contract buyout for four years; b) A four year consultancy contract, and c) A partial contract buyout and a consultancy agreement. I agreed to give some thought to the alternatives discussed.

Another meeting was scheduled for 7pm Monday, August 1. Dr. Smith said the chairman expressed that the media would be in a frenzy since they were aware that I might be returning on Tuesday, June 2nd and they also knew that the panel had made a recommendation.

Dr. Smith also claimed that Mr. Wilson said that the Council wanted the situation resolved before Tuesday, August 2nd.

"On the evening of Monday, August 1st I attended a second meeting with Franklyn Wilson, Earl Cash and Simon Wilson at Franklyn Wilson's home," Dr. Smith wrote.

"I presented the three options with my best estimates associated with costs. The chairman said that since they were convinced that I could be terminated for cause that they would only give me $120,000 plus a one year consultancy contract at the amount I would have received while I was on my one year sabbatical from Ramapo College, $156,000.

"I asked for consideration for all that I had given up to come home and the fact that I would have to start over at age 53. I asked if they would at least increase the amount to $200,000. The chairman agreed to go up to $140,000. After explaining my medical condition and that I did not want my family to suffer any more than they have already, in the final analysis, instead of a full contract buyout, the following was offered on the condition I submit this resignation:

"Immediate payout of $140,000 upon my immediate resignation; Upon receipt of my resignation, an offer to serve as a consultant for one year at $156,000 per annum with an option to renew for an additional three months if other employment has not materialized within a year; stay in the house and have use of the vehicle for 12 weeks after resignation-contrary to my original contract:

"College will pay the premium on one year of life insurance policy at $5,600; Letter from Council indicating that the matter has been completely resolved and that both parties agreed to alternate arrangements."

Dr. Smith said Mr. Wilson indicated that he would call a meeting of the Council on the following day, Tuesday August 2nd, to inform the Council of the agreement.

He said Mr. Wilson soon called him and asked him to come to his house because he had some "good news" about a change that the Council had made in the agreement.

At that meeting, Dr. Smith said "the chairman informed me that in his discussion with the prime minister, the prime minister had expressed disappointment regarding the decision by the Council and had instructed the chairman to pay the $140,000 plus the $156,000 up front and not engage in a consultancy agreement."

Dr. Smith said, "I asked if I could have a copy of the panel's report since this is what was used by the Council for the vote. The chairman said that he was the only person who saw the report and that he had not even shared it with Dr. Earl Cash or Mr. Simon Wilson.

"I told him that I am entitled to a copy of the report and he implied that I would get a copy. I asked how could the Council vote on a document that they had not read. He did not reply. I asked how could the Council have a vote and not hear from me directly. Again there was no reply."

Dr. Smith said, "I left determined to save my family from this pointless and tragic fiasco. I boarded a plane on Saturday August 6th determined to help my family as best I could to understand what had happened and why we needed to move again after just one year.

"It was entering the second week of August and there was no consideration given to the fact that the children needed to be registered in school and that we needed to find housing."

Dr. Smith also explained the circumstances surrounding the "mistake" he made when he used portions of a speech given by New York University President Dr. John Sexton without attribution.

He stressed that it was a very hectic period surrounding the Honours Convocation where that speech was delivered and called it simply an error that came as a result of a very stressful period and his writing that speech at 4am on the morning it was delivered.

"Sometime between May 24th and May 30th several persons requested copies of the Honours Convocation address. I gave some names to my secretary and asked her to attach a note," Dr. Smith said.

"She sent the e-mail. On Wednesday, June 1, 2005, I received a call from one of the vice presidents. She expressed alarm at an e-mail that she had received from Council Member Audrey Ingraham Roberts suggesting that Dr. Smith may have violated intellectual property rights. I expressed my surprise, indicating that I had not received any such e-mail, nor have I heard from any Council member on such a matter. The vice president volunteered to forward the e-mail to me."

He said that the Council soon agreed that he hold a press conference and give a public apology for the mistake. The statement, he said, had to first be seen by the Council.

"I received an e-mail from the author (Dr. Sexton) the next day, June 2nd just as I was preparing the press release."

Dr. Sexton was responding to an e-mail that Dr. Smith had sent him regarding the matter.

Dr. Smith released the content of Dr. Sexton's e-mail again which read in part: "I am sorry for the delay in responding. I am traveling and in and out of meetings. There is no need for you to apologize. I consider my ideas as the property of the educational community generally and you have my full permission to have used them."

Given this, Dr. Smith said that there was no violation of intellectual property rights.

Dr. Smith said there are several questions which need to be answered, including: Since there was no violation of intellectual property rights why was the Council so determined to get rid of me?; Why were the Chairman and his colleagues so determined to move in haste and not engage the College community? and was the College moving too quickly?

Mr. Wilson could not be reached yesterday for comment.

By: Bianca Symonette, The Bahama Journal

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