Oops, (UW)I Did it Again

Despite claiming in February that the refurbished halls will not priced out of the range of a student budget, the UWI has implemented a 30% increase in hall fees on the recently remodeled Irvine Hall, a traditional hall of residence at UWI, Mona.

Earlier this year, Principal Archibald McDonald asserted that the cost of the new fees would first be approved by the UWI council. But in July a group of students started a petition to protest the unfair price hike of 30% for the new buildings. Deputy Principal Ishenkumba Kahwa argued that the fee increase only affected the minority of students who would be assigned to these new accommodations, mostly those in their final year. He added that subsidies would be considered on a case by case basis, saying (unwisely) that there are student who can afford the new cost.

I have noticed over the last few years or so that UWI has developed the habit of using financial means as an unofficial matriculation requirement. I first noticed it with medical school where students who didn’t make the cut for the government subsidy would be offered a place at the full-fee tuition (meaning if you can afford it, you’re in). Then lately, their costs of accommodation have steadily been increasing, with the addition of several new (and therefore expensive) halls. The traditional halls like Mary Seacole, Irvine, Chancellor and Taylor were substantially less expensive, less well-maintained and had obvious limitations on number but they provided an option for students who needed on-campus lodgings.

While it is high time these older halls were refurbished, I do think more could have been done to offset the cost of refurbishing so that the student wouldn’t have to absorb such a significant increase in price. The cost of accommodations on campus increases annually anyway, but I can imagine that many students didn’t budget for this level of inflation. And it is unfair that final year students who should be concentrating on completing their degree are now forced to find extra funds to pay the raised price or risk being barred from their exams for owing money to the university.

It is unfair, but unsurprising. University is a business, after all, and the bottom line is profit. Those who can afford it will always pay, and it makes no never mind that we are once again headed in the direction of elitist education that is limited to foreigners and the upper class.



Sources: here, here and here.

UWI’s Whirlwind of a Week

It started with this article on the front page of the Sunday Gleaner on February 1. Halls of Horror was the initial headline, since removed online for reasons one can only speculate about. But truthfully, this problem started long before Ms. Heron called out the skeletons in UWI’s closet. The skeletons had to be there first for her to display.

Heron’s study ‘Whose Business Is It? Violence Against Women at UWI, Mona’ is a scathing indictment of UWI’s nonchalant attitude toward gender-based violence on their campus. She cites reported cases and anecdotal evidence in her research (this isn’t a comment on her validity), condemning UWI not for violence on its campus but for not dealing with the issue. The Gleaner goes a step further and calls UWI a “haven for those who assault and harass women” – maybe taking it a bit too far. Meanwhile the entire UWI administration from Camille Bell-Hutchinson (campus registrar) to Lerone Laing (guild president) is denying gender-based attacks left, right and centre.

Sticks and Stones May Break My Bones

A few letters of rejection, damage-controlling press releases, and suitably outraged blog posts later, we fast forward to Tuesday night when this happened. It was virtually biblical: a female (student) being stoned by males (students).

Whatever spin you want to put on it (and my Facebook feed has people demanding to hear the guy’s side of the story; even the UWI statement has unappealing implications) it boils down to boys throwing rocks at a defenseless girl. Which is just wrong, by anyone’s standards.

Naturally, UWI students erupted into protest, postponing the campus Homecoming celebrations and showing the university just what happens when they try to sweep safety issues under the rug. Spearheaded by the campus beacon of gender affairs, Mary Seacole Hall, a peaceful protest was staged on the Ring Road (admirable coverage by Loop and by my aunt’s account also featured on the evening news). The campus called an emergency meeting of its administrators and hall managers – perhaps to figure out how they can bow gracefully out of this debacle. Understandably, people are upset.

Where Do We Go From Here?

In an ideal world, cataclysmic events like this one would spark dialogue and open the way for real change, real policies being implemented in the office and on the ground. But this is Jamaica, land of quick fixes and patch jobs, of putting everything off until it’s SEP. Given UWI’s track record when matters of female safety on campus are brought up in the media (Annie Paul details that quite well), it is all too likely that this too shall pass.

But it shouldn’t be allowed to.

I hear stories of girls going to report assault cases and being dismissed. I hear stories about girls getting dragged around by their hair because people refuse to interfere in ‘man an ooman problem‘. As a girl on this campus – in this society, in this world – safety is always, always, always on our minds. How dare UWI declare it ‘not a priority’? It is our foremost concern.

How many girls have to be raped before we can talk about this openly? How many women have to be assaulted before we can all agree that this (catcalls, harassment, stalking) is not okay? UWI likes numbers: the number of reported cases of sexual assault account for less than 1% of the student body, they argue. What percentage of our bodies qualifies as a priority, UWI?

#HOWMANY do you need to see?

Advice, like good health, is often wasted on the healthy

Maybe my first post after nearly three weeks should have been more celebratory. All I know is I’m trying to get over a cold without the benefit of having my mother around for the first time in all my twenty years. And I hope to God it’s not Dengue Fever. (My mother says it isn’t).

English: Chapel on Mona Campus of the Universi...
Look: I go to school here! (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I have officially moved on to Mary Seacole Hall in the You Double-u Eye at Mona. Again, forgive the lack of enthusiasm, the department store was out of confetti. I had tried writing an advice post while waiting for the internet service to get up and running, but that failed rather cheerfully. At least, it wasn’t a miserable failure.

Really, I have no advice to offer. I’m making all the mistakes. Maybe I should write about my mistakes so people know what not to do. I’m a stellar example of how not to live communally.

At the same time, the only bit of advice I’ve gotten was from a security guard on the proper way of managing a chest cold.

“You need to get that out of you.”


“You need to get that out of you.” 


“You need some garlic and honey.”


“You have garlic?”


“Get some, crush it up on a plate -” at this point I swear to God I thought he was talking about some kind of aphrodesiac. Don’t ask. That’s just where my mind goes. “- add some honey and mix it up.” 


“Two spoons of that and you soon stop cough.” 

“Oh. Okay. Thank you.”

All this taking place as he escorted me to the guard post because I didn’t have a visitor’s pass and it wasn’t my hall.

Great start to a year, if any.