PHILIPSBURG–Wycliffe Smith has tendered his resignation from the Board of University of St. Martin Foundation (BUSMF) due to his political aspirations and the upcoming snap parliamentary elections.
Smith is leader of the St. Maarten Christian Party (SMCP). He submitted his resignation on December 21, with immediate effect. Smith had served as Vice-President of the board.
In a press release on Tuesday, Smith said he wanted to inform why he had remained on the Board after the latest financial crisis was announced and why he had resigned.
Smith said his affiliation with USM dates back to 1990, when he was seconded by the then-Island Government of Sint Maarten to be the institution’s first local Director, later President. In August 1995, just before Hurricane Luis devastated the island and “inflicted much damage” on USM, he had resigned as President to return to work with the then-Government of St. Maarten.
However, because a new President of USM was not yet in place as well as the fact that the recovery of USM after Luis required all hands on deck, BUSMF asked him to return to USM to help with the restoration of the institution. “I gladly complied with the Board’s request and returned to work at the USM until 1998 when I left to take up duties in Curaçao with the Government of the Netherlands Antilles,” Smith said in the release.
In 2006, BUSMF asked him to become a board member based on his previous experience as Director/President of USM. He accepted. Then in 2012, BUSMF appointed him Vice-President of the Board. “Being a member and Vice-President of this Board is an unpaid function. One does it out of a commitment to education and to the country,” he said.
Fast forward to 2017. BUSMF, “for the umpteenth time,” publicly made it known on August 23 that USM would not be able to move forward without financial support from Government.
“At that time no one could have predicted that exactly two weeks later, on September 6, Hurricane Irma would devastate the island and consequently halt the operation of the USM.
“By the end of September it became clear to the BUSMF that the number of students able to resume their studies had dropped considerably. In addition, the business community, on which the USM depended for additional income, was also severely hit by Irma.
“On October 2, the BUSMF informed the Minister of Education of the untenable financial situation of the USM. A day later, October 3, the Board sounded the alarm via the media that, under the current circumstances, the USM would have to close its doors. To prevent this from happening USM would need an acute financial injection from the Government,” Smith said.
During a meeting with stakeholders, he committed to stay on as Vice President. “This also motivated me to do whatever I could to keep USM open. In addition, individual encounters with staff, students, faculty, alumni and people in the community encouraged me to ‘fight’ to keep USM open. Mind you, during this time there was no indication at all that Parliament would be dissolved and new elections would be called.”
After the fall of Government on November 2, Parliament was dissolved a day later and new elections were initially scheduled for January 8. When the election date was pushed back he informed the President of BUSMF that, given his political aspirations, he would be resigning from the Board prior to Nomination Day on January 5.
“Meanwhile, the USM got drawn into the political arena. The BUSMF was called to Parliament to give an account. I must admit that I felt awkward presenting the USM issue in Parliament, knowing that whatever I said, no matter how factual, it would be politically misconstrued. Also, the mere fact that I was the Vice President would raise political questions in some people’s minds.
“As for me, it was never my intention to subject the USM to political manipulation. I was simply following my life’s motto, namely: ‘If you start a job you should complete it and if you make a promise you keep it,’” Smith said. He said this is the reason he remained on the Board until the memorandum of understanding (MOU) was finally signed.
“Needless to say, the MOU went through numerous revisions before both parties were in full agreement with it. This occurred on December 18, which I considered a well-deserved birthday gift. The final version was signed by the Minister of Education and the President of BUSMF on December 19, 2017.
“With the MOU signed, it was also time for me to resign from the Board, knowing that I had kept my promise and had lived up to the commitment I had made to students, staff, faculty, the Alumni Foundation and to the many people in the community who had been hoping and praying that USM would remain open,” Smith said.
Source: The Daily Herald https://www.thedailyherald.sx/islands/72175-smith-resigns-from-usm-board-due-to-elections