UTech: Delinquent student shot himself in the Foote
Michelle Beckford, Guest Columnist
The University of Tech-nology, Jamaica responds to The Gleaner's editorial titled 'Making an ass of the law at UTech', published on December 1, 2014, and to correct certain assumptions that it made without first seeking to ascertain the facts from the university.
In your editorial, you said that it is no secret that many students have serious difficulties finding tuition and other fees and that there were no arguments to suggest that Duke St John-Paul Foote could have paid his fees earlier.
Without divulging the private discussions among the student, his parents and the university personnel in relation to why the fees were not paid on time, we can confirm that at no time did Mr Foote indicate that his fees would not be paid by the set dates because of any serious difficulty on his part, or on the part of his parents.
There are, of course, special arrangements available for students who are in financial need and for those who receive funding from the Students' Loan Bureau (SLB), but whose loans are not fully processed at the close of enrolment. These students are facilitated by advising the Finance and Business Department, Student Financing Department of their difficulties.
Mr Foote did not fall in either category. If there was a good reason that the 80 per cent payment was not paid by the extended deadline of October 15, 2014, Mr Foote has yet to disclose it to the university or to the court in the papers he filed.
The university, in consultation with the Students' Union, has sought to assist students in difficulty in various ways:
a) More than 1,100 students who approached the Finance Department and were assisted with special arrangements.
b) The university has made arrangements for unregistered students and has notified them to advise that funds they may have paid will be held on their account to their credit; grades from classes that they may have attended without paying may also be held; as well as their student record for Semester 1.
c) It is important that payments are made on time to the university, so that it can meet its obligations to its students and to all others.
It is to be noted that fees paid by Mr Foote will remain on his account to his credit, although he will not be able to sit Semester 1 examinations. Many other students are having the same experience in that they did not respond to the payment options outlined in the Undergraduate Student Handbook, nor did they come forward to advise the Finance Department and to make special arrangements to pay.
It is also important to bear in mind that the amount that a student must pay each semester is determined by the number of modules/credits that he or she selects for that semester at the time of enrolment. Students are encouraged in the handbook to select only those modules that they can afford to take; and, if they are unable to find 80 per cent of the tuition by the deadline, to reduce the number of modules/credits to fit within their budget so that they can make at least 80 per cent of the payment on time.
The Gleaner has also made the assumption that Mr Foote abandoned the court process partway because he probably did not have the money to fight to the end. The university does not know the reasons that caused him to abandon his claim.
It is important to note, however, that Mr Foote represented himself in the court proceedings and is the son of an attorney-at-law with many years of experience in civil litigation. It is a fact, and not an assumption, that UTech has its own bills to pay and it will be costly to defend unmeritorious court actions.