Lecturers and administration staff dismissed by the American University of Malta were warned they could face suits for damages if they spoke to the media on what was happening, the Times of Malta is informed.
On receiving their dismissal notices via e-mail just days before returning to Malta from their Christmas holidays, lecturers were reminded by Provost John Ryder about their wide-ranging confidentiality clauses in their contracts.
Others received ‘cease and desist’ letters through Deguara Farrugia Advocates, the lawyers of AUM owners Sadeen Education Ltd. They were informed about the consequences if they spoke publicly on internal AUM matters.
Prof. Ryder said when asked about such warnings he did not “speak for Sadeen and, therefore, cannot confirm any such rumours that you may hear”.
Dismissed lecturers and staff members on Tuesday confirmed they did receive “threatening” letters and described the situation at the AUM as “desperate”.
The Times of Malta was told that 12 of the 13 lecturers serving at the only faculty on the Cospicua campus were dismissed only a few days before the end of their six-month legal probation period.
The same had happened to administration staff a few months earlier.
The only faculty member listed on the AUM’s website on Tuesday was Prof. Ryder, who had initially hired all the staff.
He told the Times of Malta “six new full-time faculty and a few adjuncts” would be joining the institution.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, shocked lecturers who left lucrative jobs in the US and relocated to Malta with their families to join the AUM expressed disappointment with the ongoing situation.
“I did not see this coming because we were assured we would keep our jobs for the spring despite the low student enrolment,” one dismissed don said.
“I’m not surprised of the situation because no one there seems to know how to run a university. They [the Jordanians] fired all the people who worked there and who handled recruitment. They refused to hire more people who could have recruited students,” he added.
According to another lecturer, Sadeen, a construction company with no experience in running universities, “seem to have unlimited funds for buildings and property but none for staff recruitment, student services or anything of the sort.”
“We were never informed or given any reason for our dismissal,” an American professor lamented.
“Many people moved their families across the world for this and now will be kicked out of the country with just 10 days’ notice. We were not even paid for the last month,” he added.
“They are not telling the truth when they say they meant to start slow... this is a huge failure for everyone.”
Prof. Ryder did not reply when asked why the top-notch faculty members had been dismissed.
“We will not reply to questions about personnel. As for process adopted, we follow standard university hiring procedures,” Prof. Ryder insisted.
The dismissed faculty members had originally signed a three-year contract.
The AUM had planned to open its first academic year with over 300 students but only managed 15. None of the students are paying and most have been given scholarships by the AUM’s owners.
The AUM is now aiming to attract about 150 students for the next academic year.
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