UWI, students at odds over new Irvine Hall fees
Professor Ishenkumba Kahwa, deputy principal at the University of the West Indies, says the charges announced for accommodation at the new Irvine Hall cannot be classified as an increase as the hall is brand new.
"It's not a 30 per cent increase," he told Gleaner Business.
That was a direct pushback against a petition launched by some students who were former residents of the old Irvine Hall and are slated to take rooms at the refurbished and expanded dormitory.
Irvine was the very first hall of residence to be developed at the Mona campus around 57 years ago. It housed 281 students from over 15 territories served by the university.
At midsummer, UWI Mona's student housing partner wrapped up a renovation project that added another 400 rooms, costing $2 billion. The project was handled by 138 Student Living Jamaica Limited through subsidiary 138SL Restoration.
Student Living will operate the hall under concession.
Effective August, fees for the hall were advertised as $270,000 for single rooms and $225,000 for double occupancy. Pre-renovation, students paid $171,720 for the year for double occupancy and up to $202,000 for single rooms.
Concerns about the cost of hall fees began to arise even before the project was complete.
Back in May 2016, UWI, Mona's pro-vice chancellor and principal, Professor Archibald McDonald, addressing concerns that the new Irvine Hall would be priced out of the reach of students, commented, "That's not true," in a Gleaner Business interview.
CALL TO SUPPORT PETITION
The current petition by students in July continues to reflect that concern. They are asking for public support of their bid to win reduced fees from the university administration.
The new charge "depicts a 30 per cent increase and the members of the Irvine community are unable to meet its demand", reads the petition posted online.
"Collective support is needed as an indicator that these fees are unacceptable as Irvinites will not be able to return if it's not reduced. If this petition is unsuccessful, we will be forced to find alternative housing in such a short period or to sit out a year for not being able to find a fitting solution," it said.
However, Prof Kahwa says the claim made in the petition is incorrect as the fee applies to the newly added accommodations and only a minority of the existing body of students assigned to the hall was affected.
Those affected are final year students, he added, noting that UWI was willing to review their case and consider subsidies on a case-by-case basis.
Thee deputy principal asserted however, that "some are able to pay".