'Attempt at payback deal over missing COB $12,000' | The Tribune

ATTEMPTS were made to broker a deal with a College of the Bahamas employee to pay back $12,000 that disappeared from the college, The Tribune understands.#However, the funds were not recovered despite efforts by officials to resolve the problem internally because the employee refused to reimburse the College, insiders told this newspaper.#While both the student union and the employee union have made several calls for answers, sources at COB question how such a large sum of money could have “just gone missing.”via 'Attempt at payback deal over missing COB $12,000' | The Tribune.

The fundamental issue here, as far as I'm concerned, is the excessive centralization of administrative activities at the college, and the concomitant lack of transparency of these activities. Theft happens everywhere, but when all funds are held centrally without oversight or accountability, it becomes untethered money, money that seems to have no real purpose (or money whose dispensation is at the mercy of a handful of people who have limited connection to the primary work of the institution). That kind of situation tends to invite dishonesty.I'm glad the theft was discovered. I trust that the result of that discovery is far more than a forensic audit. I anticipate a solution of the sort that obtains in almost every other tertiary level institution beyond the postcolonial world: the decentralization of authority and the ability of individual departments to disburse funds without going through a single, central office one or two steps removed from the work we need to do.

Geography, Gerrymandering and Alternative Energy

Over on Facebook, Renard Eric started this thread to discuss ways of making life in The Bahamas better for all. In case you can't find the post for some reason, here's what he says:

It's a new day - the Independence celebrations are over.I'm determined, as many of you are that follow my posts, to correct the wrongs in our country, to bring about change for poor people so "we" can all afford: groceries every week to feed our families, to pay our bills (in full), to live in a safer community, to afford health care, to get health and life insurance, to own our own businesses rather than be modern day slaves to hotels and banks, to afford to educate our children etc. But like many of you, I realize I have to be a part of the change I want to see...Let's network and use this thread to discuss solutions to our national problems. Some of us may know of issues/problems etc while others may have ideas to resolve them. No post/idea/concern is irrelevant.Obviously I have an agenda, it's no secret 'My allegiance is to the middle class and lower class'. I don't see why 'we' can't be educated, safe, financially comfortable and owners of the land in our country. Kudos to the rich in The Bahamas for making it - but they need to make room at the dinner table for us. Crumbs have lost their flavor! Our children are hungry!My first post in this thread is - 'The high cost of living'. How do we lower the cost of grocery items, gas, mortgages, car payments, insurance?

My answer referred to what I learned from my student Renaldo Major, who presented on alternative energy at COB's Bahamas@Forty Conference. He asked for details, so I'm sharing the recording of that session here.Major's presentation starts at 30:31 in the recording. Please excuse the typing sound in the foreground. We were recording on the go.[vimeo 70139934 w=500 h=500]Lean Forward Panel from the Bahamas@40 conference June 13 2013 from Nicolette Bethel on Vimeo.

Bahamas@40 Envisioning our (underwater) Future:

Climate ChangeI've already blogged briefly about last week's conference, and how stimulating it was, how worthwhile. I want to take some time now to talk about the things that stayed with me, things that changed me. We're a nation that doesn't talk much, or even think much, about how ideas, how thinking itself, can change people. We tend to spend a lot of time talking about feelings (if you don't believe me, just pay attention to the next time someone with a grievance is interviewed on TV and count how many time they use the term "I feel" and compare it with the number of times they use "I think") and even more time clamouring about the (re)actions those feelings produce, like the slap heard round the Bahamas (and discussed in more glowing terms, with less reflection and more vigour than any physical violence has the right to be) or the lawsuit about, of all things, the "right" of students to have a graduation ceremony.The talk that impacted me the most, I think, the one that made me think differently about myself, about my country and its future was last Wednesday evening's plenary on sustainable living. The two talks were very different in focus, but the message of them both was the same: we are at the mercy of decision-makers who do not take our needs into consideration, who play at running this archipelago of islands with more than local significance without really taking the time to understand what it is they are making decisions about. Margo Blackwell's talk about climate change, Andros and our Bahamian future ("I seriously have to ask," she said (I'm paraphrasing), "whether we will be here forty years from now") pushed me to think about just that—whether The Bahamas will be around one hundred years hence. The sea levels of the world are rising. Coasts are eroding. Our nation is among the top ten countries in the world most at risk of disappearing beneath the ocean, but for the past twenty years the philosophy of our governments has been to abdicate all responsibility for sensible development and civic duty in favour of 1980s policies of liberalization, commodification of Bahamian land, and greed.The second half of the evening, the talk given by Richard Stoffle on sustainable development, how it's expensive and time-consuming but really the only way to ensure the best outcome for the changes we want or need to see in our nation, was more familiar territory for me, but was no less life-changing. He revealed, for instance, how the Four Seasons development in Exuma was environmentally devastating to that most beautiful of all our islands: how the demands of the two golf courses broke the freshwater lens that provided Exumians with potable water and how people now have to buy all their drinking water, the way we do in Nassau; how the garbage produced by the resort has nowhere to accommodate it and so how it is simply being dumped in a blue hole, and how, had the government taken the time to involve the Exumians themselves in discussions about development, jobs and the rest, a very different scenario might have resulted, one that might have a chance of long-term success (no offence to Sandals, but how many people really believe that the Four Seasons experiment is going to survive?).The podcast of that evening is here.If you listen to it, remember that this talk, which has changed the way I think about us and our life, was ignored because on that very same day one MP slapped another and every talk show discussed that event, so fleeting, so symbolic and reinforcing of all that is wrong with our nation, and ignored this conversation that might help us think more constructively and urgently about what we need to do right.

Bahamas@40: the College of The Bahamas' Fortieth Anniversary Conference

It happened last week. From Wednesday to Friday, a modest number of Bahamians attended the Bahamas@40 Conference mounted by the School of Social Sciences. The full title of the conference wasThe Bahamas at Forty: Reflecting on the Past, Envisioning the Futureand the three days of sessions did just that.First of all, put aside your preconceptions and prejudices about our local university. Never mind that our governments (none of them) haven't yet seen fit to recognize and enshrine our university's status, or that your perception of the college is of a glorified high school, or that you haven't been on campus either since you graduated (whether that was graduating from GHS pre 1975 or graduating from COB pre 2000). Never mind that you might still have stuck in your head that this is a place where people go to do A levels or Pitman exams or their Associates' Degrees. Do me a favour as you read this post and assume just for a moment that the College of The Bahamas is a university—because it is.Second, bookmark this site, because I'm going to use it to share some of the sessions. If you didn't get to the conference, I'm sorry, but several of the sessions were broadcast live over the internet and several of them are available as podcasts.Third, check out this link for the full outline of the sessions:Bahamas@Forty ScheduleAnd check back later for more discussion.Yes, I'm always running to go somewhere.  

Joey Gaskins: How Not to Be A University: Lessons from the College of the Bahamas Playbook

I believe that while the contribution of the university to the economy is an important one, there is a higher purpose. Instead of taking a utilitarian view, I want to reflect on words of Wendell Berry, an American scholar, economic critic, activist and farmer. He says, “The thing being made in a university is humanity...what universities, at least the public-supported ones, are mandated to make or to help to make is human beings in the fullest sense of those words — not just trained workers or knowledgeable citizens but responsible heirs and members of human culture.”via thebahamasweekly.com - How Not to Be A University: Lessons from the College of the Bahamas Playbook.

thebahamasweekly.com - COBUS: "Let's Build a University Where Students are Afforded Quality Education at Low Cost"

This is worth reading from beginning to end: thebahamasweekly.com - COBUS Press Statement.The press in general has focussed on one small part of the document, that relating to the House of Assembly; the original title of this document online is "COBUS: 'Would like an apology from the Speaker of the House and Royal Bahamas Police Force'", but that is only part of the concerns of this press release. The refusal by the RBPF to admit members of the College of The Bahamas Union of Students to enter the House of Assembly (doubly ironic, given the fact that that day's proceedings were dedicated to Sir Randol Fawkes, the father of the labour movement in The Bahamas and a supporter of all unions) puts broader issues of democracy into question, and it is those issues that are at stake here, not the relatively trivial call for an apology. The apology is incidental. The question is the value we place on the young adults in our society who have chosen to educate themselves at home,, and the value we place on their place in our so-called democracy.In regard to that issue, here is what the President-Elect, Alphonso Major, had to say:

We have many questions about what that transpired that day: what laws gives them police such authority to pick and choose who enters into the House of Assembly? How exactly were we a threat? Who exactly was in danger? Or is the crux of the matter simply that any time a group of educated College students assembles to stand up for something within this country, they are immediately perceived as a threat that must be contained. Even if there was intent to disrupt the proceedings which we maintain we did not have, Members of Parliament disrupt each other all the time within the House of Assembly - why aren’t they being denied access to the proceedings?Is this still a democratic nation that we live in where fundamental rights apply? -- Alphonso Major, President-Elect

But that was not all that transpired at the press conference. Indeed, the meat of this release treats the proposed cuts in subvention to the College and the resultant raising of fees. If you are not a student at the College of The Bahamas, I challenge you to read the whole thing before you come to any conclusion.Some of the highlights, for me:

In the absence of substantiated data, it is our goal to bring these inefficiencies to your attention, and to show all that a solution can be found through our critical assessment and assistance by providing practical, logical solutions, not as idealists: rather as students who recognizes the direction where we as a College should beheading and who wish to insure our futures within the nation as a whole, even before we consider transitioning to University. -- Donovan Harding, PR Director-ElectLet us build a University together one where students are afforded a quality education at low to no cost! We must build on the 21st Century learning skills with the technology and resources that are needed to move the country’s level of education from the bottom of the list to the top with Barbados, Singapore and Finland. -- Ernesto Williams, outgoing COBUS President

Once again, go read it. The whole thing. I challenge you.