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The fear factor

“I fear that my student body has a somewhat irrational fear of its government in the fact that it thinks its government has the resources and the capabilities of destroying each and every one of them individually over the fact that it will not have support in this matter. There is a significant element of this fear throughout the UWI at this time.”

If student President Damini Parris is to be taken at his word, there is a deep-seated fear at the University of the West Indies, and ironically it is not fear of exams but that of political victimisation.

In an interview with Barbados TODAY this week, Parris revealed that so worried were members of the student body about being victimised by the political directorate, that the majority had stayed away from the recent protest march organised by the Guild in a show of dissatisfaction over recently announced tuition fees.

We have no reason to doubt the student president but we would really prefer to believe that the failure of the Guild to attract a large crowd for its demonstration was due, for the most part, to inadequate promotion.

Similarly, we would prefer to think that a lacklustre response by the Barbadian public to the Guild’s petition was due to poor circulation and not a perceived “significant” fear by students of signing the protest document.

Yet the President’s argument seems quite compelling.

He went on to express the view that the university’s student body was generally displeased with the 20 per cent tuition payment announced in last month’s budget.

Parris also said that many of those who thought of protesting were concerned that “their livelihoods and [those] of their parents or relatives would be threatened if they spoke out by raising their voices and placards in protest of the move by Government.”

Sadly, the collateral damage is already visible everywhere. Not just in the hallowed halls of the Cave Hill campus or other government-supported institutions for that matter. There’s also growing frustration with top management of leading private sector institutions in this country, those so driven by money and greed that they will trample their own founding principles in the process.

It makes you question the need for university education in the first place.

Why should Barbadian taxpayers be asked to fund and maintain institutions of higher learning if our society is unable to accommodate authentic thinkers? Those who are prepared to stand up and defend what they believe in.

What’s worse is that the current gatekeepers are the very products of the university; these former student leaders are the ones now throwing down the ladder behind them to block the progress of others.

We agree with the President that situation is reaching a “boiling point” but will a turning point ever be reached in our conformist society where the majority is still not prepared to be singled out in a crowd.

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