What is this thing about UWI and its students always clashing over policy issues? I read a letter in one of the dailies stating that "the time has come for the Guild of Students to run parallel to, and not beneath, the general administration of the university". What's going on?
At the UWI, students are customers whose payments are for tuition, board and additional expenses. Additional features, such as the Students' Guild, are not rights, but traditionally have helped guide, not direct, policy decisions by the university's management.
I have heard the student guild president, Daniel Wilson, speak about his absolute insistence on not giving up his "mandate" as if he were a prime minister or actual president. He should realise his role here, as the head of what is essentially a customer group that has a symbiotic relationship with the UWI management.
UWI students pay for a service that the university administration has a responsibility to provide at a high standard. As part of the customer service, the students are allowed to use the resources of the university to enhance their college experience by inviting participation and feedback through groups such as the students' guild. UWI's marketing efforts, in particular, have benefited from the guild's renowned social activities and programmes.
That said, the guild has developed into a different animal, and is expanding along the lines of a trade union. Trade unions typically develop as a response to actual and perceived injustices meted out to workers. The particular "injustice" in this case was the management's insistence on not delivering service (exam sittings) before full payment was received from customers, some of whom declared they were unable to pay. The reaction was student demonstrations, with resulting service disruptions led by the guild.
The management of the university must thus lay down, or make clear what it will or will not allow from its customers and their representatives.
If the students' guild is a formal part of the university, then the UWI management must have oversight and ultimate decision-making authority.
If the Guild is purely an advocacy group for students (customers), then UWI should leave them alone to manage their affairs internally and cannot decide on the leadership. Their funding should also be separated from UWI funds and collected directly from the individual members.
In the present case, the UWI management is holding the present guild leadership for its association with recent on-campus civil disobedience and terrible behaviour by some of its members/customers/students. UWI's operations were affected, damaging its ability to service other paying customers. I cannot see how the guild and its leadership can expect no action from the management, because the events and consequences were unacceptable.
So if the guild is directly under the administration's control, then the guild leadership should be sanctioned/removed for its involvement in these acts. If it is an independent body, then it should face legal action from the UWI, with its leadership taking full responsibility.
The question must be answered: Who is in charge at UWI?