UWI Guild at wits’ end
The Cave Hill Campus’ Guild of Students seems to be losing its battle with the Government of Barbados to scrap its proposal to have Barbadian students pay tuition fees at the UWI
from September 2014.
Speaking to the media during a Press conference at the The University of the West Indies’ Guild office today, outgoing president Damani Parris said that while the student body opposed the proposed increase in fees, negations had broken down between it and Government.
He said he was disappointed that Prime Minister Freundel Stuart failed to carry out his promise of a follow-up meeting on the matter after the guild sought an audience with him.
Parris said since the meeting, he has not received any response from the Prime Minister’s office regarding an invitation to a meeting or a request for further information on proposals the guild put forward to the country’s leader.
“We have seen tremendous suffering in terms of our application numbers due to this policy and that concerns me greatly. I am very concerned when one has a situation where there is so much uncertainty; and the uncertainty stems a lot from the fact that there has not been a solid pronouncement on what will be the way forward after this policy has been passed.
“It is fine and dandy to simply indicate that we are going to have a policy change but without a solid structure and plan in place we are going to face a situation where the uncertainty creates anxiety and the anxiety creates a situation where persons simply decide not to get themselves involved in the situation and that has serious implications for the continuation of the University of the West Indies at Cave Hill, in my opinion,” he said.
Since the announcement that the imminent financial burden would be placed on current and future students, in last August Budgetary proposal, the guild arranged a town hall meeting to which Stuart, Minister of Finance Chris Sinkler, the Opposition, fellow students and all Barbadians were invited. A petition from students to Governor General Sir Elliott Belgrave was also organized. And additionally, UWI students took to the streets of the streets of Bridgetown to protest against paying 20 per cent of the economic costs at the campus for the first time in almost half a century.
But despite all of these actions and a quiet audience with the PM, Parris said it appeared as though the guild was running
out of options.
“I will seek guidance from my student body on what we should do at this stage. But I feel, currently as president of the student body that I shall have to advise them that we seem to be out of options,” he said.
He also voiced concerns that Government’s public service layoffs may also affect the campus’ students, particularly part-time students who worked full-time. He said those students who were laid off, in his opinion, definitely could not afford to pay the full tuition fee from scheduled date.
Parris explained that one of the guild’s proposals to Government was taken from tertiary education report carried out by the campus’ principal Professor Hilary Beckles.
“It spoke about students making a five per cent contribution to their education with possible increases. That was a policy change that we could have supported because it would not have created a drastic change in the environment from what is currently the case.
“And it would have allowed the Government to save enough coppers, in our opinion to meet the cuts that they were trying to make. The other proposals that we were suggesting were ones that taken in the past during similar recessionary periods.”