University, exams & student protests

Protests last Monday on the UWI campus in Mona

It’s been making the rounds lately that certain UWI students are disgruntled (to say the least) about the way UWI has treated them. The university has barred them from sitting examinations because they haven’t reached any kind of satisfactory agreement regarding their tuition fees (and in some cases boarding fees). To add insult to injury, the university is also giving all students who can’t sit their exams because of non-payment a default grade of ‘F’.

The way I see it this situation stinks all ’round. UWI has been letting payments slide for ages, but they can’t afford to do it any longer. Times are getting hard. Meanwhile the same students who have been skipping on tuition either (a) genuinely can’t afford it or (b) are just abusing the system to get a free education. Obviously students who fall into category (b) are the real culprits here, but the good have to suffer for the bad.

The fact remains that at least in Jamaica education is a privilege, not a right. Does this need to be fixed? Yes, of course. Is it going to be fixed any time soon? Probably not. In the meantime what we’re stuck with are students with an overgrown sense of entitlement and a university that is struggling to pay its bills.

What this adds up to is angry students forcing their way into an examination room, not to sit the exams, but to demand that the students who haven’t been barred join them in their protest, then proceed to wreck the place when they don’t comply. I don’t care how self-righteous you think your cause is, you’ve got no right interfering with other people’s education. What’s next? Demanding free health care, then interrupting other people’s surgeries when you don’t get your way?

I am all for social activism, conscientious anarchy and good, old-fashioned antidisestablishmentarianism, but the innocent should never be casualties in your war against The Man. People who worked really hard to pay their fees on time while still cramming for exams shouldn’t have to deal with the added stress of violent protesters and rescheduled sittings. The collateral damage was just too high.

Your hearts are in the right place, guys, but will the end justify the means?