Lecturers guilty of sexual harassment must be punished– Prof Florence Obi Vice-Chancellor, UNICAL
The first female Vice Chancellor of the University of Calabar, Prof Florence Obi, speaks with ADA WODU about various issues in the academia, the odds she is surmounting in the course of doing her job and other issues
As the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Calabar, what are your primary duties?
A Vice-Chancellor is the chief academic, administrative and financial officer of a university. When we talk about chief academic officer, it means the Vice-Chancellor superintends over the academic affairs of the university in conjunction with the institution’s Senate. That means the VC is the chief examiner, reviews curriculum, sees to it that examinations are properly conducted in an enabling environment, and the results are properly released. The VC also ensures that transcripts of students are promptly released.
The VC is also responsible for administrative action and is the chief financial officer of the university. When things go wrong financially, the VC is held responsible. Those are the tripartite responsibilities of a vice-chancellor.
What is the most complex decision you have taken as the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Calabar?
I am not sure if I have taken any complex decision yet. Perhaps, the slight increase we recently introduced to school fees could count as one. It was not easy considering the economic situation in the country. Everyone is hard up, yet the university needs to keep moving along with other contemporary universities. All the good services need to be rendered and provided for the university. Meanwhile, there are dwindling resources coming from the Federal Government. So, one of those most complex decisions I have taken for now is to increase school fees. I knew it would come with a lot of reactions but because I was pursuing it for the good of the university, I had to take the decision. Eventually, I was able to negotiate with my students and we understood one another.
You are the first female vice-chancellor of the school. How does that make you feel and what legacy would you like to leave behind?
As the first female vice-chancellor of the university, it comes with a lot of responsibility and expectations. Many people want to see what a female vice-chancellor can do. There are also high expectations from people who think the university is too complex for a woman to run. However, there are those who believe the university needs a mother-figure that would carry everybody along, especially from the background we are coming from. They want to see a VC who can carry everybody along, who can work with the students and get them to be more focused.
For me though, it is just about doing the normal duties of a vice chancellor. I am happy that I am the first female vice-chancellor and the normal duties of a vice chancellor. I am happy that I am the first female vice-chancellor and I have said I would work round the clock. It is not just about being a female vice-chancellor; once any woman gets to a position of authority, she must work three times harder than her male counterparts.
Did your gender make it harder or easier for you to attain this position?
It made it harder because as a woman, one needs to work harder to be reckoned with. Right from the day I joined the university in 1990, I set my mind to standing out in the crowd. I set my mind to having a healthy competition with colleagues and working my way to the top of my profession. I did that despite all the challenges that tend to draw women back.
Before I was appointed, I went round, just like other male candidates, consulting people. Many told me that a university is too turbulent for a woman. Many didn’t give me a chance, simply because I’m a woman.
You marked your one year anniversary in office in December 2021. What do you consider to be your achievements so far?
It was a very difficult first year and I thank God that we survived.I think one of the greatest achievements I would like to be associated with is the peace, unity, oneness and purpose on campus. I derive joy from the fact that people are working in a cordial environment and anybody can have access to the vice-chancellor. I think people are more relaxed working in the university now. There is no tension or harassment of anybody.
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