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“DPD 3 Contributing to physical facilities at USP: Marine Studies and AusAID Lecture Theater”

02/08/2016

DPD  3      Contributing to physical facilities at USP: Marine Studies and AusAID Lecture Theater

As Director of Planning and Development, one of my responsibilities was the aid budget to USP. I recollect perhaps two large projects where I was fortunate enough to have some influence.

 

Marine Studies Complex (Lower Campus)

At the time of its establishment, USP had inherited what is now called the Lower Campus, with the old hangar (in which offices were built), a little jetty and slipway ramp for boats.
When I became DPD, I came across a massive Japanese  aid proposal to build a Marine Studies Complex on the Lower Campus, which had not been proceeded with (or rather, turned down by the Vice Chancellor) because some influential science academics and/or administrators (I cannot recall now) wanted the complex to be built on the Upper Campus to be close to SNR, the Library and other facilities.
I found out through the grapevine, however, that the Fiji Government was interested in taking over the Lower Campus area relocating their Naval Base which then and now was down the coast past Veisari.
Of course, the Lower Campus would have been an idea base for the navy, with the RNZAF-built breakwater providing sheltered moorings, and the slipway. But for exactly the same reasons, the lower campus was ideal for USP’s marine scientists, with facilities for boats etc.
Extremely concerned at the possibility that USP would lose an extremely valuable asset, I spent an afternoon persistently arguing with the Vice Chancellor (Esekia Solofa) that he reverse his decision.  To his great credit (and I suspect very difficult for Samoans in authority), he did change his mind, and today as are result of my persistence and Esekia’s humility, USP’s marine scientists have a fantastic asset which might otherwise have been lost to the Fiji Navy.

AusAID Lecturer Theater

As DPD who was monitoring enrolments and class sizes, I was concerned that there were now many programs (and especially in Accounting, Management and Economics) whose class sizes were so large that no one lecture room could accommodate them.
I felt that USP needed a massive lecture room or auditorium which could accommodate class sizes of 500 or so.  I made a proposal for AusAID to use part of their triennium budget to USP to build such a large lecture room.
AusAID agreed, but the Director of Physical Facilities (then Ian Banner) subverted my proposal. He built instead the current AusAID Lecture Theater Complex, with three separate lecture rooms- one Large  and  one Medium one, with a Small one in-between, often used now as an Arts Performance space.
In hind sight, Ian Banner was correct in that the three spaces were used far more efficiently than one massive lecture room would have been.   Mind you, at the time Ian claimed that the internal walls could still be removed to create that massive lecture room I had advocated.
A year later, I had I resigned from my position as DPD having served for only three years. I went back to teaching in economics, in the process also demoting my self from the professorial level I had as DPD, to the Associate Professor level in Economics.
My departure from administration was not on particularly good terms with the Vice Chancellor for a number of reasons, but basically, I just after a year in post, I realized I was just not suited to the stresses of inter-personal politics in administration and management.  The Vice Chancellor asked me to remain for another year so as to complete USP’s submission to the University Grants Committtee, which I did.  The Vice Chancellor was kind enough to allow me to return to the Economics Department where my old position was still vacant, and he appointed me at the top of the Associate Professor level so as “to minimise the reduction in earnings” entailed by my return to teaching.
When the AusID Lecture Theater was completed  (by which time I had also resigned from USP to enter the Fiji Parliament), the Vice Chancellor graciously invited me to the opening, thereby also rebuilding a bridge between us that had collapsed a year previously.

 

 

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