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Fiji Uni Students Stage Protest

SUVA: Close to 70 students of the University of the South Pacific boycotted classes for two hours yesterday, claiming that a joint selection committee breached its policy when it brought in an Australian vetting team to select a vice-chancellor, the Fiji Times reports.

Disgruntled members of the Fijian Students Association [claimed] there was a grave injustice done when three Australians were brought in by the committee to review applicants shortlisted for the position.

Association spokesman Veresi Bainivualiku [who is also president of the USP Students Association and was himself a member of the selection committee] said they agreed to shortlist Savenaca Siwatibau and Professor Rajesh Chandra.

Bainivualiku said he felt the committee knew that votes would sway in Siwatibu's favour and brought the three Australian [vice-chancellors] in.

"When we sought explanation from them, they said it would be fair on the system, and also because the outcome of the so-called independent trio would result in what they called a non-politically motivated decision," Bainivualiku said.

The committee is chaired by Education Minister Pratap Chand and comprises education ministers from the Solomon Islands and Tuvalu, a non-professional USP staff [member], three professors appointed by Senate, and the president of the USPSA.

A statement from the university said the protest was based on the belief that a vice-chancellor had been appointed.

"The university points out that no such appointment has been made and it appears that the students have been misinformed," it said.

"It regrets what appears to be a serious breach of confidentiality as required in the proceedings of the joint committee."

It said the university was concerned that the appointment of the vice-chancellor should be subjected to pressure which would seriously harm the institution.

The term of the incumbent Vice-Chancellor [Esekia Solofa] ends in February 2001.

A statement from his office said a joint committee of the council resolved that the position be advertised internationally and that applicants not be limited to citizens of the USP-member countries.

Nominations were invited from member governments and members of the council.

+++niuswire

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