Monday, 11 September 2006

Article in Megapolis

There is a scandal in one of the most famous and expensive universities in the country, who can reach the world level - KIMEP. Five of its former foreign faculty members accuse the university administration of the oppression of faculty members, mismanagement and financial machinations...

Translation of article in Megapolis newspaper, issue 36, 11 Sep 2006 by Gulsum Kunelekova, Almaty

Professors Peyman Pejman (former adjunct professor of the Journalism and Mass Communication), Dr. William J. Hickey, Dr. Patrick Gunning (former head of KIMEP Economics Department), Michael McHugh (former head of Political Science Department) and professor Inna Freeman (Marketing Department) have expressed all accusations and claims in an Open Letter to the head of our country.

The USKO company indeed belongs to Dr. Bang

The Open Letter says KIMEP according to its charter has to be non-commercial organization but almost all construction and repair works have been conducted by the USKO Company controlled by Dr. Bang and his family. "KIMEP often publishes its contract bids in various newspapers, but almost all bids are won by the USKO, and there is no full independent audit of the buds procedure. For example, the cost of the recently finished library was about 3 m dollars but it could have been built by cheaper other companies.

It is absolutely wrong that all contracts are won by only one company, - KIMEP president Dr. Chan Young Bang replied. Out of 11 repair and construction projects conducted or recently finished on KIMEP campus only 2 are implemented by the USKO Company. The scrupulous procedure of the bid selection is established at KIMEP. An independent committee considers the applications and gives recommendations to the Executive Committee of KIMEP. If a project is connected to big investments, then the issue is considered by the KIMEP Council - the supreme management organ at the university level, which consists of professors, the university administration, employees and students.

At the same time, the most significant investments are a subject to the obligatory approval of the KIMEP Board of Trustees, which consists of leading businessmen, scientists and representatives of the Kazakh government (17 people in total), including the chairman of State Property Committee, the representative of the Almaty city administration, former and current National Bank chairmen Daulet Sembayev and Grigoriy Marchenko, the chairman of the US academic circles from San-Francisco University, the president of the Eurasian Foundation in Kazakhstan and the Citi Bank president.

All the members of KIMEP Board of Trustees have voted for the project as in their opinion USKO's suggestion was the best in terms of price and quality, - KIMEP vice president on academic affairs Dr. Khabib Rakhman added. - It is not true that the library could have been built for the lower price. We can provide documents, which prove that USKO's suugesstion is cheaper for 400,000 dollars then others. In total, three organizations have participated in the bid, including Almatykurylys

- And are you Mr. Rakhman a founder of USKO?

No, I am not a shareholder. The founder is Dr. Bang and he has a board of directors.

- And those three millions for construction or any other money for construction - are they state money or do fund raising from other sources?

In a majority, it is tuition income from tuition waiver.

- How many students are at KIMEP and what is an average price for education?

About 4000 students study now at KIMEP at all programs. The tuition fee for bachelors is about 4,000 annually in average, for masters - about 5,000. An annual KIMEP budget is around 18 m dollars, 80 % out of which are the salaries of professors. Moreover, foreign and local professors have the same salary level - from 40,000 to 85,000 dollars depending on their academic degree.
Churn Rate

- KIMEP top managers, whom Dr. Bang trusts, show serious disrespect in relation to foreign professors, - the Open Letter says. Contract conditions are changed when foreigners come to Kazakhstan. Salaries are decreased without any prior notice or justification. That is why many foreigners keep leaving KIMEP working at KIMEP only for awhile.

Contracts of the employees are subject to recurrent reconsideration and modification in order to correspond to the legislation of the Republic of Kazakhstan and to international norm, - Dr. Bang said. - In 2005-2006 academic year salary at KIMEP has increased by 12.2%, and in 2006-2007 - by 10%. Around 600 professors and administrative employees work at KIMEP, in 2005-2006 academic year their number has increased by 9%. The churn rate is very low, only 7% of our professors and administrative employees left KIMEP this year.

The statement that decisions are made by a narrow circle of administrators is also absolutely wrong. We have the established procedures for recruiting, promotion and dismissal of employees which we strictly follow. Our system includes the consideration of every case by three committees of different level (college, department and university level), which consist of professors and administrators. Only four professors have been dismissed from KIMEP in last two years. Their activity did not correspond to the mission and the goals of our university.

- What is the reason for all these professors to lie?

Probably, it is not a lie but these professors might have misunderstood both in the country and at KIMEP because they have come to Kazakhstan not so long ago, - KIMEP vice president Dr. Rakhman said. - The problem with foreign professors is not money but in the fact that it is completely different country, different routine and culture for them. Some could not find place for themselves so they leave.

KIMEP strives to attract foreign professors but they usually come to Kazakhstan for less than 1-2 years as invited professors, - KIMEP student government president Madi Sarsenbayev said. We unfortunately have to admit the fact they are not going to spend the rest of their live in Kazakhstan and leave in case if more attractive fro aborad suggestion appears. Besides it, it is very hard to discuss working conditions with foreign professors and to suggest them salary at the same level with professors of higher academic degrees in Western universities.

"Inna Freeman was receiving 40,000 dollars"

- After my arrival to KIMEP my salary was immediately reduced by Dr. Rakhman, - Inna Freeman wrote, - and they told me that they will give my salary in depreciated exchange rate, in tenge.

This is also does not correspond to the reality, - Dr. Bang responded. - The professor mentioned above on arrival has signed a contract for 40,000 dollars a year that is a starting salary for an assistant professor. This sum has been increased by 10% in June 2005. Professor was in position till August 2005.

She explained her dismissal to the KIMEP administration by the fact that her son, who had serious health problems, was left alone in her home country, - Dr. Rakhman added. KIMEP pays salaries in tenge in accordance with the requirements of the legislation. We are the Kazakh institute and we do not have grounds to pay salaries in dollars.
"Pat Gunning lies"

- Sometimes such administrators like Khabib Rakhman and Dr. Bang decide that they do not like someone and send him or her back without the corresponding compensation, - Pat Gunning wrote. - Many specialists fulfilled an additional work after KIMEP with consent of Khabib Rakhman had promised them to pay for it and had not paid. KIMEP deprived me of four months salary and bonuses. It is about 20-30,000 dollars.

- Dr. Rakhman, do you still think that Pat Gunning lies?

Yes, he does. He has sent his application for the position of economics professor with a salary equal to 65,000 dollars in August last year. At that moment it was the highest salary level at KIMEP. Now professors of this level are paid 75-80,000 dollars taking into consideration an indexation. In a month after he was accepted on his position, he started saying in an informal environment that Kazakhstan is a bad country, that the administration pays low salaries to Kazakh citizens, and that KIMEP accepts many local specialists who lack qualification.

Then Pat Gunning refused to teach those courses which were in KIMEP program and which student chose for themselves. He also started coming with his wife to work, a citizen of China or Vietnam. The whole day she was spending at his office. As a result, students were shy to come to personal consultations, professors and administrators were also shy to discuss some confidential issues in her presence. In other words, he appeared to be not the person who was expected to take this position.

Taking into consideration the fact that he had the leading position at his department, the administration wanted him to participate in further development of the economics department and help local staff to increase their qualification. But he refused to do anything in this direction explaining it by the fact that he is too significant in order to go to insignificant meetings.

In December when students were to pass final exams, Pat Gunning suddenly and without any justification required to increase his salary, refused to teach any courses and promised to leave Almaty in case if we do not pay him sum greater than stipulated by contract. In other words, he was blackmailing the university administration.

In order for students to pass the examination, the administration made a decision to pay him a particular amount of bonus. Why did he ask for additional payment? Because a professor of the same department, Sabit Kakimzhanov, was sick and the administration asked Dr. Gunning to teach several classes instead of him. Dr. Gunning came to a classroom and said that Mr. Kakimzhanov is sick but I will not teach class instead of him. So he asked additional payment just for the fact that he let students go. Taking into consideration such unprofessional behavior and unjustified claims, the university administration decided to terminate the contract in January instead of June. At the same time, the decision was made not only by Dr. Bang and Dr, Rakhman personally, but by the committees called at the college, department and the whole university. Professor was paid for December, January and for two months above and otpuskniye in order just to, generally speaking, get rid of him. He did not work in February, March, April, May and June that is why he thinks we underpaid him 20-30,000 dollars.

Was the student harassed indeed?

- What can you say about professor Peyman Pejman, Dr. Rakhman? In your opinion, what are the reasons why he is displeased? Do you confirm the information that he was accused of sexual harassment of one of the sutdents?

Peyman came [to Kazakhstan] in Agust last year. In January-February one of the students complained to the university administration that professor Peyman sexually harasses her and offers to give her higher grades instead. In case if she refuses he promised to fail her at the exam. The girl says he touched her and expressed immodesty by gestures, words and glance. She complained to the head of the journalism department administrator, and she in her turn to the dean of the department. The head of Disciplinary Committee has created an urgent committee. Many people were questioned - students, administrators, professors and Mr. Peyman himself. He also has openly admitted that often invites female students to his place at night. The students confirmed in the course of questioning that professor indeed invited them to his place but they did not say that there were any precedents of sexual harassment. But neither of professors has a right to invite any of the students to his place in the evening. Students can go in a group, if it is, for example, a goodbye party, but not alone.

After three weeks of investigation, the committee came to a conclusion that the fact of sexual harassment can not be proved but Mr. Peyman has certain problems with female students. The committee made a decision that there is no need to terminate a contract with the professor because of sexual harassment case but the committee made decision to give him a strict warning to prevent the repetition of similar cases. Maybe he decided that his reputation was damaged because of this incident. That is why he resigned.

t is unclear why Dr. Gunning and professor Peyman did not go to Kazakh court if they had been that indignant? Inna Freeman has started the trial with a help of one lawyer in Almaty. This lawyer has contacted me. I showed him the employment contract, explained the situation with salary. After that he denied to help Inna with that case explaining it by the fact that the legislation was not breached.

Students work hard here

- Dr. Rakhman, it is known that you are involved in negotiations on acquisition of accreditation with the US corresponding committee. Which stage are negotiations at?

Accreditation in this organization takes about 5-7 years. During their last visit, the commission said KIMEP makes a lot of efforts to get the accreditation that is why it is not much left to get the accreditation. It is necessary to note that the US accreditation is an acknowledgement of the quality of university education and its diplomas all around the world.

- But your former professor Inna Freeman noted that the KIMEP School of Business has expelled none of the students for so many years. In her words, "this is unbelievable and, of course, it gives birth to doubts about the School"...

This is unbelievable because it is not true. There is a strict monitoring system of students' grades. If their academic performance significantly worsens, they are put on academic probation. If within this term they do not improve their performance, they are expelled from the university. Now more than 500 students are put on academic probation or expelled from the university. Moreover, we have expelled for about 500 students from the university in last two years because they were not able to fulfill academic requirements established by the university. Besides it, there is strict code of personal discipline, and there are all corresponding structures to punish the guilty in breaching the discipline. Unfortunately, students are expelled from KIMEP due to disciplinary reasons.

"They do not need bribes"

The students theirselves with which Megapolis correspondent was able to talk to do not deny that sometimes misunderstanding with professors occurs indeed but in the majority of cases foreign lecturers are qualified specialists who do not agree to give grades for bribes. The high level of their salaries allows to refuse from bribes.


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