Saturday, August 25, 2007

Letters by Prof. Ronnie de Camino Velozo to the UPEACE Management

In July 2007, Prof. Ronnie de Camino Velozo, full-time/resident Professor in the Environment, Security and Peace department at University for Peace, sent out a letter to the UPEACE management, staff, faculty, and field personnel, in response to the cost-cutting decisions announced at UPEACE (see announcement letter below). Among these decisions, was the non-renewal of Prof. Camino's full-time/resident faculty contract. For most UPEACE students and alumni Prof. Camino's letter was the first instance of knowing about the announced cost-cutting decisions at UPEACE; the management had neither consulted/involved the students prior to taking the decisions for termination/change of faculty contracts, nor had it informed the students in a formal manner about these decisions. After one month of wait, during which Prof. Camino received no response to his letter, he sent out another letter to the UPEACE community, dated August 10, 2007.

Until today - August 25, 2007 - the UPEACE management has not made clear what criteria were used or who - among the faculty, staff, students, alumni, field personnel, university partners (such as American University, which is the UPEACE's partner for the Dual Masters NRSD programme) - were involved/consulted for taking these faculty contract termination decisions. The exact (unedited) text of the UPEACE Management's letter, sent out by Dr. Georges Tsai (Ex-Rector), and Prof. Camino's two letters, which explain clearly the nature of events at UPEACE, are available below.

Letter from Dr. Georges Tsai, Ex-Rector, Announcing the Cost-Cutting Decisions (July 2007)

Dear Colleagues,

Last week, the financial situation of the University was reviewed by the Council. It was agreed that based on the projected income and planned expenditures for 2007-08, it was necessary to identify cost-cutting measures in order to protect the integrity of our core academic programmes and to maintain operations at both headquarters and regional offices at an acceptable level.

It is never easy to announce cost-cutting initiatives, but this is something organizations, whether publicly or privately supported, have to do from time to time. We have reached the point where we need to reduce our costs in order to protect our ability to continue to offer the high quality programmes our students and other stakeholders are entitled to receive from us.

Regretfully, I have therefore to announce the following measures:

Professor Simon Stander has informed me that he did not wish to renew his contract for next year. His position will remain vacant during at least the next academic year.

Professor Tom Deligiannis has indicated that he wanted, for family reasons, to pursue his career in Canada at the end of the current academic year. His position will also remain vacant for an indeterminate period.

Dr. Ronnie de Camino's current contract will be renewed until the end of October 2007. Effective 1 November 2007, he will continue to be a member of the University under an arrangement that will allow him to teach courses and undertake other activities of interest to him and to UPEACE.

Dr. Anouk Guine's contract will not be renewed for 2007-08. The Gender and Peacebuilding Programme will rely on a combination of courses provided by other Departments and visiting professors to teach the programme. The University will intensify its efforts to seek funding for this programme.

The position of Director, Finance and Personnel, Geneva Office, will be terminated at the end of August and therefore P. Krishnamurthy's current contract will not be renewed. However, he has generously offered to continue to support the Geneva Office on a voluntary basis as Senior Advisor to Ameena Payne, Executive Director of the Office, until the end of March 2008.

Under an agreement soon to be signed with the IUCN, the two organizations will share the services of Narinder Kakar and our New York office will occupy space provided free of charge to UPEACE.

Dr. Tony Karbo, Dr. Aileen Toohey, and Balazs Kovacs will be asked to teach some courses of our regular MA programmes. Some colleagues who were asked to handle additional tasks during the transition period will revert to their previous responsibilities.

The measures identified above will generate a net saving of approximately USD 310,000 in 2007-08, which should increase to USD 390,000 in 2008-09.

In addition the following measures will also be implemented:

Several members of the senior management staff have agreed, on a voluntary basis, to make a loan to the University representing the equivalent of 10% of their monthly remuneration. This arrangement will be reviewed after six months (i.e. in March) to determine whether the loans can be reimbursed. This will produce an infusion of cash of USD 24,000 over the six-month period, which will temporarily ease the usually tight cash-flow position we have at the end of each calendar year.

During at least one year term vacant positions will not be filled and no new positions will be opened. Exceptional cases will be carefully analyzed by the Rector.

No salaries increases associated with cost of living will be considered during the next financial year.

Strict control of the temporary assignments associated with consultant or visiting professor contracts will be implemented.

On behalf of all of us, I would like to thank those of our colleagues who will be leaving us next year for their contribution to our programmes and the proper management of the University. They will be missed and we wish them all the best.




First Letter by Prof. Ronnie de Camino Velozo, dated July 16, 2007

Dear Friends of the Field personnel, staff, Faculty.

Members of Management and Council of the University

You will have received an e-mail from the Vice-Rector and Acting Rector of this University, Mr. Georges Tsai, referring to the cost reduction measures that the University is implementing.

This letter is a response to these measures.

First, it is a new experience for me to be considered personally as a “cost reduction measure” designed to maintain the integrity of the academic programmes. I cannot understand the way that organizations (specially UPEACE) have to go through to justify their cost cutting process, at least not in the same way that is so frequently the case in the private sector. I also cannot understand how it is possible to continue offering high quality programmes in the face of such cuts.

Second, I was informed Monday the 9th of July, by Vice-Rector Tsai, that my contract will not be renewed the 31st August (Afterwards I was told that my contract would be extended until the end of October.). I am really sad that I was informed at such short notice of the non renewal of my contract. I believe that an academic with more than 12 years of services to the University deserves a better treatment. It is possible to argue that with a one year contract the University is fully acting within its rights technically, but the University for Peace especially should treat its faculty, indeed all its employees, with much greater respect and decency.

Third, I was also informed that I could continue teaching my classes at the University on a credit basis as a visiting professor until August 2008 and in the subsequent academic year 2008-2009.

Fourth, I was offered the tile “Distinguished Professor” during the continuation of my teaching duties. This last offer I regard as a joke in bad taste, or even more, a lack of respect. Such a condition does not exist in the University scales and should be granted only as a real distinction and in no case as a consolation prize to someone you are removing from his position.

For me, there is something much more basic in all this issues:

- A minimum of loyalty does incline me to recognize the successful efforts of the management of UPEACE in the revitalization period in bringing it from one MA program with three students to 10 MA programmes with more than 100 students. Though, UPEACE is still a small University by international standards. I applaud the success to which every body involved has contributed.

- But is also evident, that in the last three years, the efforts to overcome the financial difficulties have failed. More important than the creation of new programmes and activities, it is necessary to consolidate financially the existing programs.

- It is difficult to maintain the high standards demanded by the graduate programmes with a faculty that has no guarantee of a stable career or of increasing the visiting faculty. The University must have a minimum of resident faculty to keep quality standards. Programmes need to be solid, based on faculty that is doing research, and that acts in the name of the University in the Academic community. The promise of costs reduction this year that will be increased during next year is not the solution that the University requires.

- The Israeli philosopher Avishai Margalit has a key criterion by which to measure the decent society: “ it is the one in which institutions do not humiliate the people”. I have brought this concept to my colleagues and students. I feel that the University has, by treating me and other colleagues the way they have, have failed to follow this all important principle.

I am not asking for a reconsideration of my situation. I am prepared to accept a contract until the end of October and will continue teaching as a visiting professor until August 2008, because as any human being, I have personal obligations and dependants like any other, and I have to continue with my day to day life. I would have expected at least an early warning from management since the evaluation of my classes and the evaluation of my Head of Department this year was particularly high. I would have never expected that I would be shot by a firing squad in the last academic position of my career.

Prof. Ronnie de Camino Velozo

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ Estimados amigos del personal de campo, del staff, del cuerpo docente de la Universidad-.
Srs. de la gerencia y del Consejo Directivo de la Universidad.,

Uds. recibieron un correo del Vicerrector y Rector en ejercicio Sr. Gorges Tsai sobre medidas de reducción de costo.

Quiero tomar posición sobre el mencionado documento.

Primero es una nueva sensación ser personalmente considerado como una “ medida de reducción de costos” para mantener la integridad de los programas académicos de la Universidad. No entiendo eso de que las organizaciones deban hacer cortes de costos de tiempo en tiempo, por lo menos no lo entiendo en el sentido que lo pueda entender una empresa privada. Tampoco lo entiendo en relación a la posibilidad de seguir ofreciendo programas de alta calidad.

Segundo, se me aviso el día Lunes 9 de Julio, por parte del Vicerrector Georges Tsai, que mi contrato no sería renovado después del 31 de Agosto( posteriormente se me ofreció la extensión hasta fines de Octubre). Lamento realmente que se me hubiera avisado con tan poco tiempo esa no renovación. Creo que a un funcionario que ha servido por más de 12 años a esta Universidad, por simple respeto, se me debería haber avisado con más tiempo. Se puede argumentar que con contratos de 1 año, no hay obligaciones mayores para la Universidad. Pero una Universidad para la Paz debe tener un comportamiento más respetuoso para con su personal.

Adicionalmente se me comunicó, que podría seguir haciendo mis clases en base a la tarifa de los profesores visitantes hasta Agosto del 2008 y eventualmente durante el año académico 2008- 2009.

También se me ofreció la Condición de Profesor Distinguido en la continuación de mis labores. Esto último es algo así como una broma de mal gusto, o más aún, una falta de respeto. Tal condición no existe en el escalafón de la Universidad y debería ser otorgada por servicios distinguidos y en ningún caso como un premio de consuelo a quién se está sacando de su puesto.

Para mi hay algo mucho más básico en todo este asunto:

- Es de mínima nobleza reconocer los esfuerzos hechos durante la revitalización de la Universidad, de crecer desde un solo programa de Maestría con 3 alumnos hasta una Universidad pequeña con 8 programas de Maestría y más de cien alumnos. Todos lo reconocemos y aplaudimos

- Sin embargo, es evidente que desde hace casi tres años, los esfuerzos por superar las dificultades financieras de la Universidad han fracasado. Más que la creación de nuevos programas y actividades, lo que requiere la Universidad es la consolidación de lo existente.

- Es muy difícil mantener estándares altos de educación de postgrado con profesores que no tienen garantía de poder tener una carrera medianamente garantizada e incrementando la proporción de profesores visitantes. La Universidad debe tener un mínimo de facultad residente para mantener estándares de calidad. Los programas deben ser sólidos, basados en personal académico que investiga y que actúa en su medio académico. La promesa de reducción de costos este año y llevar más allá esto en años siguientes, no es la solución que esta Universidad requiere.

- Aprendí del filósofo israelita Avishai Margalit sobre lo que es una sociedad decente: aquella en la cuál las instituciones no humillan a las personas. He predicado ese principio a mis colegas y alumnos. Siento que la Universidad en el trato a mi persona y a otros colegas no ha cumplido con la máxima de la sociedad decente.

No estoy pidiendo ninguna reconsideración de mi situación. Estoy aceptando un contrato hasta Octubre y el seguir dictando clases hasta Agosto del 2008, puesto que como todo ser humano, tengo compromisos personales que cumplir y debo continuar con el día a día de mi vida. Habría esperado por lo menos un anuncio temprano de las autoridades, particularmente este año en que tanto mis estudiantes , como ni Jefe de Departamento me calificaron especialmente alto. Habría esperado por lo menos un aviso con más anticipación y no un fusilamiento


Prof. Ronnie de Camino Velozo

Second Letter by Prof. Ronnie de Camino Velozo, dated August 10, 2007

STATEMENT TO THE ADC ( for the records)

By Ronnie de Camino Velozo

1.- I am discontent about the passivity with which the last events at UPEACE have been taken by authorities and faculty. It seems as it were a unwritten commandment:

“ We shall not speak about it”

There is a certain reminiscence with the “ Inconvenient Truth”, there is a label of fatalism and conformism. I am also amazed about the lack of reaction to my hqstaff message referring to my removal. I must recognize that only the new Rector reacted to my communication. Nobody in the Council, non of the Authorities reacted. I also think that the letter of the students should be taken seriously and give the space to discuss the subjects that they are bringing to the table.

2.- I would like to know which were the responsibilities of the Heads of Department about this situation. Where they consulted about the consequences of the “cost cutting measures”¨?, or simply were they informed? Where the decisions taken by the Vicerrectors unilaterally or by the Executive Committee of the Council? Did our authorities informed in advance to our partner institutions (like AU) about this “cost cutting measures”. It looks like we were in the kingdom of the “ unavoidable” and we simply accept, without any fight or discussion , what is considered unavoidable, like the sequence of days and nights, the globalization, the global warming, the financial crisis of UPEACE. We can not do nothing, thus we ignore it.

3.- Does the evaluations of students[1], the evaluations of the Heads of Departments[2], the running projects[3], like books to be published[4], networks to be coordinated[5], proposals of funding presented[6], [7], played any role in the decision of being a “ Cost Reduction ”? Or is the “cost cutting” measure a way to get read of “trouble makers”? Is a rare coincidence that both Anouk and Myself have publicly expressed our disagreement with the procedures to design the Rector. Simon also represented his discomfort, but resigned before being fired ( I am making the bold prejudice that I believe that he would have been also fired if he would have not resigned) I have been trying to transfer some of my dreams , projects and responsibilities to other dreamers and other organizations that permit their staff to dream, because I do not feel that the right environment exist at UPEACE for many initiatives in which I am involved.

4.- Cost cutting is synonym of failure and of losers ( using the USA jargon). We need FUNDS, not “ cost cutting measures”. Cost cutting measures in a Spartan, Franciscan, Diogenesian world like UPEACE is failure. A context of desperation in which financial decisions are taken is dangerous: previously this desperate decisions involved the University in the Earth Charter affaire of accepting a donation knowing that the operation was illegal . Today funding is coming through firing Professors like Anouk, an me.

5.- Do our authorities think that transforming the University in a kind of Taxi University, with our Heads of Department being administrators of the “ Visiting Professors” will construct a real University[8]? A University that makes research, outreach work in the communities and the country? A University of real impact ( in the country and the world) that will allow us to claim that our “world wide mandate” is being accomplished?

6.- Why the academic decisions are taken by the administration and not by Faculty?: the two fellowships for students of the Mora County were not granted. Instead , a one quarter fellowship was offered by the Vicerector to the Mayor, making impossible for any student from Mora to be a student at UPEACE. Local students are simply funded with the good will of the Professors that permit an extra load of work. We were asked by our Upper Cloud ( my way to name our Authorities: you can not see inside, but they cannot or don not want to see the outside) to contribute to a fellowships fund for developing countries students. At the same time, the salaries of the academic personnel have not been raised: the fact is another expression of failure to form an endowment for fellowships with the good will of faculty.

I am not asking, as I said in a previous communication, for any reconsideration of my situation. I will leave the University in October, and I only will continue with my classes and with the status of Professor, but coming only to teach . I need to gain time to arrange my migration situation. I need time to arrange the human aspects like migration , insurance, search for other opportunities, etc. But I have to go somewhere else, were I am respected as a person, were I can be able to put all my passion, all my energy, without any restriction.

I wish that the indecent behavior of the University never happen again against the dignity of any of my colleagues, that nobody else will be humiliated. Many young colleagues are already looking for other opportunities outside UPEACE. For sure their positions will be not replaced and the UPEACE community will receive the announcement of a new “cost cutting measure”: the replacement of their functions with new “visiting professors”. I remember with this situation, an anecdote about the “cosification of the University”(The University as a merchandise. In the same page of La Nacion were two economic advertisements, one selling a Truck and another selling a University, because education is now like a commodity). The cherry of the cake about the form in which I was treated, and the way our colleagues and other employees of the University could be treated in the future, was pretending that I would accept a designation of “Distinguished Professor”, while at the same time I am fired. It looks very much like granting the “Purple Heart” to the family of the soldier just killed in the battle.

I would like to dream , that this University be one day brave University, the kind of University that wants to change the world, the kind of University that takes positions ( and go out of the lie of being neutral). One of my many dreams is that in the year 2000…. something, Upeace receives the Peace Nobel Prize for being faithful with its mission. But such a Prize means commitment, taking risks, implying activism, the defense of human rights and the defense of nature, with no calculation and no fear to speak a language that is not politically correct( as is the case today).

For me is not the isolated fact that two professors have been dismissed and two others will be not replaced, but the real problem is that there is a lack of participation of students, staff and faculty on the University affairs, a lack of meaningful orientation, a lack of real leadership, a lack of permanent solutions.

Dear faculty peers, is not the moment for being afraid. The Millennium Development Goals speak about the “ freedom from fear”. I would like to provoke you to be free from fear and demand to the authorities and the Council to make a serious and participative analysis of this crisis and try to reach to a joint solution, in which the opinions of Faculty, Staff and Students are taken seriously.

Ronnie de Camino Velozo,

El Rodeo 10. 8. 2007

[1] My evaluations in the period 2006-2007 have been in 4.38 in ARRSD, 4.40 in the SJES, 4.15 in the Practicum and 4.54 in the Central American Field Trip. I am sure, by the comments of the students to me , that the evaluation of both Simon and Anouk were possibly higher.

[2] The evaluations that Rolain has made of my performance have been also quite satisfactory

[3] I finished a Project with WWF , COSUDE and other partners, I also finished another Project with LEAD and 2015 of PNUD

[4] There are two books in process, one is in the Publisher and the other is finishing the Edition, both of the WWF- COSUDE project

[5] I am the International coordinator of REDIPASA, the Iberoamerican Network for Research in Payment of Environmental Services, with 160.000 Euros for 4 years ( the project was won competing with many other proposals from Iberoamerica) .

[6] A Project profile for training in Local Leadership for Sustainable Development was presented to JICA.

[7] In addition I was granted the Merit Medal to Natural Resources by CATIE, I was named member of the Communications and Education Committee of IUCN and I was named in the Scientific Committee of the French Journal Bois et Forets des Tropiques ( is the third Journal in which I am in the Editorial Committee). I am also bringing every year students from the Juan Carlos University from Spain and from the University of Wageningen, to work with the communities and to make their MSc. Thesis respectively.

[8] In the DEPS Department Carlos García was not replaced, Tom Deliginnis and Ronnie de Camino will be not replaced, weakening the Department because of the financial situation. In Gender, the only full time resident professor was Anouk Giunee, and she will not be replaced.

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