Friday, 1 September 2006

An Open Letter in Respublika

We are a number of former lecturers, professors, department chairs, and deans at KIMEP, your country's best and most renowned higher education institution. We are writing to you because this university is plagued with serious administrative, and management problems.
Many of our respected local and foreign colleagues simply do not dare join our ranks because of fear of retribution. Some of our names are listed below.

Why should you care? Because, if not corrected, these problems will discredit the name of your country, the name of your country's president, and affect the quality of education that your sons and daughters deserve to get.

We are publishing this letter in this newspaper because it is the only one that agreed to publish it. We have not chosen this publication because it is an opposition paper. We hold no political affinity or opposition to President Nursultan Nazarbayev and his cabinet; we believe KIMEP is not a political issue; it is national issue.

The sooner President Nazarbayev and his administration openly distance themselves from KIMEP's mismanagement, the sooner this institution with so much promise can start the road to recovery.

We are also appealing to foreign embassies in Kazakhstan to warn their citizens that KIMEP is not a suitable educational institution. We have sent a copy of this letter to some of the embassies.

In the past two academic years alone, almost a dozen professors and deans have either summarily been fired or voluntarily resigned out of frustration and the situation is not getting any better.

KIMEP is currently being sued in Kazakhstan courts and we appeal to the judiciary to act independently.

This Open Letter is NOT to criticize Kazakhstan or Kazakhstanis. The problems we are pointing out to have mostly been created, exacerbated, and implemented by foreigners who are running KIMEP.

We are openly airing the dispute because trying to affect change from inside KIMEP has been tried and failed. KIMEP's president, Dr. Young Chan Bang, is said to be enjoying the full support of President Nazarbayev and that has been used as an excuse to stifle any opposition to his management style.

Dr. Bang does own KIMEP and is entitled to run the university as he pleases.
But KIMEP is trying to build a reputation as a Western-style business, management, and social sciences university. It is trying to attract respected Western educators.

Dr. Bang has also put his full trust in a few top administrators who lack the respect or trust of their colleagues. These "senior" administrators lack any moral or professional credibility, in some cases did not have any substantial teaching or administrative positions before they came to KIMEP.

Many believe that even the senior Vice President of Academic Affairs and the Dean of Student Affairs, to whom Dr. Bang has delegated much power and trust, lack the appropriate experience to qualify them for their positions.
The publishing record of these administrators is extremely poor, including one administrator who has only written one paper in the 1970's.

A primary question clouding KIMEP's reputation is the financial interests of Dr. Bang and his family in it.

KIMEP, by its charter, is supposed to be a non-profit institution. But nearly all construction and repair work done in KIMEP is done by USKO, a company controlled by Dr. Bang and his family.

KIMEP often advertises contract bids in various newspapers. But, almost without exception, those contracts are won by USKO and there is no independent auditing of the bidding process.

For example, there is no record showing work vsuch as the recently completed library that has cost about $3 million -- could not have been done cheaper by other companies. There needs to be more transparency into the USKO-KIMEP financial relationship.

There are questions about whether KIMEP is financially on the right track.
Most universities receive a substantial portion of their income through grants and donations. KIMEP receives almost none.

With about 90 percent of KIMEP-s revenue coming from student tuition, which increases about 15 percent each year, the university-s future finances seem shaky.

Another problem at KIMEP is that the top administrators trusted by Dr. Bang show serious disrespect for the Western educators the university needs to keep in order to maintain and increase its quality of education.

This handful of ?senior managers¦, whom many consider corrupt, incompetent, and arrogant, has created a closed administrative system that is undemocratic and filled with nepotism and cronyism.

Contracts change after foreigners are brought to Kazakhstan, salaries decrease without notice or justification, and disrespect forces many foreigners to leave KIMEP only after a short period.

Another example of mismanagement and disregard for administrative accountability is that many of the "ad hoc" or "standing" committees formed at KIMEP are filled with the same members. Trying to appeal the decisions of one committee to another would simply bring you in front of the very same people you dealt with before.

They have failed to meet the obligations of some accreditation committees in the past and although currently attempting to engage with another for over two years, they have not even managed to achieve registration with this American accreditation group.

At a time KIMEP is actively pursuing its desire to receive accreditation from the United States, such mismanagement, questionable financial schemes, disregard for the welfare of its lecturers and professors, and summary-dismissal of professors can only hurt the institution and the reputation of Kazakhstan and its leaders.

It is time President Nazarbayev and his administration put a stop to these.

Mr. Peyman Pejman, former Associate Professor, Journalism and Mass Communication; Dr. William MJ Hickey, former Fulbright Professor; Dr. Patrick Gunning, former chair of the Economics Department Dr. Michael McHugh, former chair of the Political Science Department Ms. Ina Freeman, for visiting professor, Marketing Department


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