Re – ‘Withdrawal of Professor Emeritus’: How Senate was misled

Following the publication in the Vanguard, on the
issue of the so-called ‘withdrawal of Professor
Emeritus’, I am forced to exercise my right of
reply and to make some comments.
Let me say right away that there is nothing like
withdrawal of Professor Emeritus in the academic
world as the title is an honour which is for a
lifetime. It is an embarrassment that such a
statement can be made by the University of
Benin, a distinguished centre of learning which I
had the privilege of being its Vice Chancellor.
When I retired at the age of 65, in 2010, I decided
not to seek any contract appointment in the
University of Benin or elsewhere which is what
some of my contemporaries do.
However, the Department of Geography and
Regional Planning and the Faculty of Social
Sciences appealed to me to accept the honour of
Professor Emeritus so that I can still be associated
with the Department and Faculty and therefore
nominated me for appointment which passed
through due process to the University of Benin
Governing Council that eventually approved the
appointment as conveyed to me by the Registrar.
I never applied to be Professor Emeritus because
I do not need it as a necessary component of my
intellectual capability recognised across the world.
Most of the best intellectuals in the world are not
called Professor Emeritus. What distinguishes a
good scholar is his/her contributions to
knowledge as reflected in his/her works not the
title he/she bears.
I decided to accept the honour of Professor
Emeritus because the criteria and conditions of a
Professor Emeritus were worked out in line with
international standards and approved by the
University of Benin Council on the
recommendation of Senate during my tenure as
Vice Chancellor. There is no provision for any
duties to be assigned to a Professor Emeritus and
there is no salary. This is the practice in all parts
of the world.
These conditions are clearly reflected in the terms
of my appointment approved by Council as
contained in the Registrar’s letter of 19th January
2011 which states that: “You shall have no routine
responsibilities assigned to you but you may, on
invitation, supervise postgraduate students and
offer advice.”
To the surprise of everybody, at a meeting of
Senate on September 24, 2014, the Registrar, as
Secretary to Senate presented a one paragraph
memo asking Senate to withdraw my Professor
Emeritus without any documented reasons as
expected in any memo to Senate or Council.
The two reasons for this unprecedented and
misguided action were that l have ‘not been
attending Senate meetings’; and secondly, that I
have ‘not been carrying out other responsibilities
as Professor Emeritus’. This is ridiculous because
the same Registrar wrote in the letter of
appointment to me that: ”You shall have no
routine responsibilities”. What responsibility then
that is expected of me to warrant this action?
More difficult to understand is the fact that there
was never any communication whatsoever
between the Registrar or any other organ of the
University and me on this matter, before the
memo was presented to Senate.
I have made it clear to the Registrar that, as the
custodian of University rules, she apparently
misled Senate by providing false information in
the memo.
There was nowhere in the letter of appointment
or in the University Regulation guiding the
appointment of Professor Emeritus where it is
stated that the honouree must attend Senate
meetings as if he/she is a serving staff of the
University.
Even if anybody has a grievance with a Professor
Emeritus there must be communication and
proper documentation for Senate in line with the
principle of fair hearing enshrined in our
University regulations.
Equally surprising is the fact that the Registrar
and members of Senate are aware of the
Standing Order of Senate reaffirmed by a Benin
High Court in 1986 that for any substantive
matter to be discussed by Senate it must be listed
in the Senate agenda and two weeks must be
given before Senate meeting in which the matter
is to be discussed.
The matter was not listed on the agenda of the
Senate meeting of September 24, 2014.
Consequently, such a substantive matter leading
to the University of Benin Senate’s decision,
unprecedented in the academic world, was
treated as A.O.B.
On the issue of not ‘carrying out other
responsibilities’ the only responsibility mentioned
in the letter of appointment as quoted above is
supervision of postgraduate students and offer
advice. Even then the letter of appointment
indicated that it is voluntary and only when I am
invited.
If the Registrar cared to ask the Department of
Geography and Regional Planning about my
activities in this regard she could have been
informed of the postgraduate students that I
have been supervising since my appointment as
Professor Emeritus.
On the basis of my promise to the Department of
Geography, Faculty of Social Sciences, Senate,
Council and Convocation during my inauguration,
I have never asked for payment for my services
although payment for them was specified in my
letter of appointment.
In addition, realising that most of the senior
academics in the Department of Geography of the
University have retired or are away on leave of
absence, I have been building the research
capacity of four other junior academics in the
Department using my personal financial
resources. I do not think Professors on full time
employment in the University of Benin carry as
much postgraduate teaching load as I have been
carrying for the University free of charge.
In taking this ridiculous and illegal action the
attention of Senate was not drawn to the
regulations governing the post of Professor
Emeritus as approved by the Governing Council
on August 16, 2003 which is available to all staff of
the University. It is clear in the regulations that
the University of Benin Council has the
responsibility of appointing Professor Emeritus
and not Senate. At present, I have two letters in
my hand. The first one signed by the Registrar,
conveying the University Council’s approval of my
appointment as Professor Emeritus. The second
also signed by the same Registrar, conveying the
purported ‘’decision’’ of Senate to withdraw the
Professor Emeritus.
Finally, let me conclude my reaction by pointing
out that the University of Benin Senate was
misled into taking a funny decision that is
unheard of in the academic world.
It is embarrassing for a first generation University
like the University of Benin where other younger
universities should visit to learn about university
management.
Furthermore, Senate was not made to appreciate
the fact that a ‘Professor Emeritus’ is a life long
and permanent honour. It is not a temporary
appointment that can be renewed or terminated.
All over the academic world including the
University of Benin, Professor Emeritus is earned
as a result of the recognition of the honouree’s
contributions to teaching and research at the
point of retirement. In fact many Universities in
different parts of the world have appointed
Professor Emeriti posthumously just as it is done
with honorary degrees.
Thus, the honour of Professor Emeritus is not
based on some future activities that the
honouree will carry out. The Senate of the
University of Benin in taking part in this action
should be further reminded of the fact that there
is nothing like “withdrawal” in the University
regulations governing the appointment of
Professor Emeritus.
This is a negative and ridiculous new term
emanating from the University of Benin. If
directed at my person as it appears, it shows how
low the University has gone and it is most
unfortunate. If it is a “decision” that the University
wants to be remembered for, then it is an
unprecedented negative contribution to the
intellectual world that would do no good to the
name and reputation of University of Benin.
Finally, let me conclude my reaction by pointing
out that the University of Benin Senate was
misled into taking a funny decision that is
unheard of in the academic world. The whole
episode is embarrassing to the University,
irresponsible and libellous.
Professor Emeritus Onokerhoraye wrote from
Benin City, Edo State.

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