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“There should be a filtering of how the council is chosen”: The former president of the Council…

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 «Να υπαρχει Ενα ; φιλτραρισμα πoς επιλeγεται το&nbsp ;συμβούλιο»: Ο τΕως προεδρος του Συμβουλiου...

There is a bad habit in TEPAK, whoever feels an injustice somewhere… makes anonymous letters to the Auditor General and issues are created out of nowhere

In its 20 years of operation, which completes this year, TEPAK went from the promising establishment of a new university in Limassol to the major scandals that shook its credibility. In recent years, the collective work done has managed to leave the problems behind, with TEPAK moving forward and developing. After the new school in Paphos, he also looks towards Larnaca with the murmur in Limassol growing. Unfortunately, however, in the last period, he found himself again at the center of the news and again for the wrong reasons. An internal dispute, a consequence of the introversion that plagues it, but also an appointment of a junta by the President of the Republic to his Board of Directors from which an uproar broke out. Christos Chomatas, member of the Board of Directors for two terms and from 2020 to 2024 chairman of the board. of TEPAK, talks to “P” about today's TEPAK, commenting on the current topical issues but also in general his vision for the next day.

What is the role of the Board of Directors of a public university?

It is a complicated process how a University is run. There are two bodies, the Senate and the University Council. There are lines that separate one from the other, but it is inevitably impractical to have two bodies deciding. In practice, the Senate decides on academic issues and the council on financial issues, buildings, etc. The council has the power to change things, but it's getting to a point where it can't on its own. Both institutions need to understand this and see what powers each one has and what powers they should have. For example, the board cannot suspend an academic, but an administrative one can. There were, for example, the issues with the professor who also went to prison and we as a council could not even suspend him, nor could we even as a council impose a penalty on him, which we should. There were issues with double seaters that are neither foreseen by anywhere nor by the Senate, it is the work of a disciplinary committee, while the council should have an opinion on these issues.

Since there was a lot of talk about the Advisory Council, could the appointment to TEPAK go through it?

I do not agree with the Opinion on this matter. You are entering a process that requires an application if you want to enter a position. I think that the government, the President, should find themselves who is doing for these positions and appoint him directly. On the other hand, there must be a filtering in the council, where I was president, there happened to be four former councilors of Limassol, we knew each other and had something in common.

If was going through the Referendum would you apply for the presidency?

No.

Do you have any comment on the recent appointment to the d.s. of a person who praised the junta?

No sensitivities should be hurt, I don't know him. But I think that, generally speaking, whoever is appointed should be properly vetted. For a university, whoever is appointed should have at least a university degree. Political beliefs should not play a role, but extreme phenomena are not allowed in Universities. That the President revoked shows that he too was not happy with his choice.

Controlling Officer

Does the Board of Directors have an opinion on who is the audit officer of the University?

There are two people in charge. The senior executive officer is the rector. The person in charge of finances and the one who signs off on all University payments and has the final approval for everything that is done is the director of Administration and Finance. Those two entities, for most of the time I was there, worked very harmoniously with each other, but also with the council. The decisions of the Council were observed and both executed. Today a dispute has arisen in relation to the director's refusal to pay a sum which both the Senate and the council have decided should be paid. The council is in favor because it actually implements a decision of the Council of Ministers which unfortunately is not for publication, but it clearly says that those who will move to Paphos are entitled to fixed travel allowances. Based on that decision and other opinions from legal advisors, we made a decision that this amount should be paid to the academics, not uncontrollably and without control, nor for charity, based on the specific decision of the Cabinet. The manager had a different opinion, he considered this illegal and did not fulfill this decision.

What is the biggest issue in TEPAK?

The scandals 5 years ago were decisive and complicated things even more. There is a bad habit in TEPAK, whoever feels an injustice somewhere… makes anonymous letters to the Auditor General and issues are created out of nowhere. Regarding the latter, it was a situation that had been brewing lately, the council acted as peacemaker. This is not the real image of TEPAK, everything is checked, we have excellent administrative services and good academics. We had the 12-point letter from the director of Finance and Administration. We have seen it and discussed it, not all issues can be solved by the Council, nor can they be solved overnight, it takes time.

What was the most difficult decision you had to make?

There were too many, if I have to single out one maybe it was the decision to raise the issue of changing the controls officer, after what happened with the director of Finance and Administration. We were faced with a good partner, an honest person and unfortunately a disagreement arose. In addition, we had difficult decisions about buildings, court decisions and, most distressingly, when we had to decide because of the lack of spaces that existed for the prolonged delay in starting the Student Residences.

What problems did you find in the Hearths?

First let me say that I personally disagreed with the architectural competition, I was on the council at the time, not chairman and I voted against, the main reason being that the costs are going up. But, we got a new space, we had to give the best for the students, we started with a simple construction. From common areas (kitchens, toilets) and we ended up with each room having its own, thus increasing the cost. We have made additional provisions for conference space and also there we will have surrounding green spaces and sports areas. The first project had to have the proper infrastructure, it's not just 500 student rooms.

Do you stand out some moments?

I consider our award in 2022 as Golden Protectors of the Environment very important. All our buildings are environmentally friendly with almost zero waste and low energy consumption. We are changing all our vehicles to electric ones, we also operate a special environmental office. All this is passed on to the students and we build a culture. Also important was the agreement with OKYpY for the Rehabilitation Clinic, a small early University Hospital which, if it goes ahead, will be very helpful for us and for OKypY and for Limassol, while it will be an example for the b pole.

Was the decision to transfer to Paphos easy?

The Municipality of Paphos came and told us that it is giving everything, the land, the building and putting the money to build all the necessary infrastructure, to deliver us a ready-made jewel. At the same time, we ensured that a new Maritime School opens in Limassol. Since 2007, when the University was operational, no new faculty had ever been opened. There were no spaces for a new school, something had to go for something else to come, AXIK was a good opportunity for us. The most basic thing is that TEPAK from 2,800 students will reach 3,500 with the school in Paphos. In Limassol, the Maritime Department will increase its students in Limassol as well.

Now we are also talking about Larnaca…

No I disagree, but it should be ensured first that the budget promised by the state for Limassol, for the completion of the buildings and the second pole, will be secured. Let these be done and then – why not – in Larnaca as well.

The second pole

Why is the second pole delayed so much?

For many years no one dealt with the second pole, with its claim. We opened the issue together with EBEL and the Municipality of Limassol. While there was always a negative attitude from the Ministry of Health, with Minister Hadjipantela we reached an agreement that, if implemented, will be a win for both. The Technical School is also leaving and we will take the building. Unfortunately the Police refuse to leave, but we all know the problems of the building. The main issue is the financial one, both for the movements and for the new buildings.

However, people do not know that the space was “listed” in TEPAK…

Yes, we spotted this, we made suggestions that it should be shown, maybe with a mockup of what it will be. If the space is given, all the existing schools of TEPAK will have privately owned buildings which will perfectly serve the student needs, while also solving the problem of the high cost of rent for the buildings. TEPAK does not leave the city center, the privately owned buildings are there, we have new buildings all the time but we have exhausted every possibility.

You were expecting some help for the second pole ;

Yes. Limassol as a whole should demand to move forward. It is a huge development project for Limassol. It is a project that will change the image of the whole city.

The fight with the Municipality of Limassol

It is circulating as a “rumor” in Limassol that the rectory of TEPAK and the Municipality are opposite each other, but “do not see each other”…

Well… this is unfortunately a sad reality. I was a municipal councilor for 15 years, maybe I too once did not see TEPAK positively, we had problems in cooperation. Since he took over, we established a committee with the participation of TEPAK-Municipality-EVEL to meet and discuss the common issues and move forward together. We managed to resolve some long-standing differences with mutual concessions, for example we cooperated in the Old GSO. We are on a different footing and I hope it will continue with the new administration of TEPAK as well as with the next one, whoever the mayor is.

Can the Municipality of Limassol give more to TEPAK?

Clearly, one of the simplest. To give you an example, every year the graduation ceremonies of our students take place at the Municipal Garden Theatre, we are talking about 45 evenings. The Municipality demands and receives rent, as it would charge a private person, this is unacceptable. Together with the Municipality of Limassol we can do a lot, together claim the second pole, together claim various funds. Until today this is not possible, I hope it will change.

High rents

A big issue for Limassol on issue of rents, has TEPAK lost students in recent years due to this situation?

Yes, the most tragic thing is that we learn about students who prefer abroad and not Limassol because the cost is much lower. We tried many ways to find solutions. The Hostels are being built, the student hostel of the Archdiocese helped a lot, we also gave incentives to private individuals, we approached people with empty plots of land to build Hostels. We subsidize students every month for rent. We ran a program with hotels, another one with hospitality in the homes of Lemesians, we worked the first year and then unfortunately not. But we are forced to try different options.

Autonomy and private universities

Are you in favor of the autonomy of Universities?

There should be some control, it is a huge amount of government money . TEPAK has been managed very well in recent years. For the first time last year, we asked for a supplementary budget, because the original one as we had it was not approved.

Do you have an opinion on the great debate in Greece on the establishment of Private Universities? Cyprus did well with the Private, is it to the benefit of the Public?

I'm all for Private Universities, they cater to a different audience with the goal of profit. At the same time, however, they also educate a large group of Cypriots and foreigners who cannot be admitted to Public Schools. Coming from another city, for example, to study at TEPAK today can cost more than paying tuition fees in one's home city. I think we have several successful professionals in Cyprus who have graduated from Private Universities. On the other hand, of course there are risks, in Cyprus I think we have too many private schools in relation to our population, the bet is how many students we can bring from abroad.

The level?

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Sure they also produce excellent students, but I think public universities have an advantage, that's why more people prefer public ones. This is also seen by employers in Cyprus.

Do you agree with Pan-Cypriot Examinations as a way of admitting students?

I am not in favor of Pan-Cypriots, I also think that it does not mean that some people should enter the Universities simply to study, several branches need revision. It would be better to slowly change to something more specialized with further involvement of the University, but it is not easy. Baccalaureate and overall school attendance should play more of a role, also the Public should find a way to accept students with other recognized exams as well.

Source: politis.com.cy

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