Sun | Aug 20, 2017

Duke Foote: UTech a law unto itself

Published:Tuesday | February 2, 2016 | 2:00 AM
Duke Foote

Your editorial of December 1, 2014, titled 'Making an ass of the law at UTech' (in reference to my suit against the University of Technology (UTech) reads: "Sometimes there is the letter of the law, then common sense. The people who run the University of Technology (UTech) won't be surprised if there are questions whether they possess the latter and whether they are too far gone for empathy."

Upon denial of my rights as a student at UTech, I brought the action against the UTech (as a last resort) to address UTech's acts of injustice towards me.

Now, UTech still continues to mete out to me injustice in the name of the law, regardless of its hostile and draconian consequences for me.

I sued UTech and obtained a court injunction to enforce my rights at that institution. The university then issued to me an invalid examination card to sit my 2014 final exams, and upon attendance so to do, prevented me from writing same.

The problem started in 2014 when, having paid off my school fee on October 30, 2014, the University of Technology maintained/took the position that I had not paid same in the manner, proportion and time required by its rules. The facts will show, though, that I paid up all my full fees before the due date of October 31, 2014, within the ultimate time/date required by its said rules.

I filed the suit against the University of Technology (as a last resort) by myself, in my own name, and without using a lawyer.

Before filing my suit, tearful pleas were made to the following members of the Council of the University of Technology: its chancellor (Edward Seaga); its then president, Burchell Whiteman; Registrar Elaine Wallace; and even Minister of Education Ronald Thwaites to resolve the issue for me to write my 2014 final exams. These pleas were flatly rejected by the university.

 

HOSTILE RESPONSE

Having obtained the examination card I wanted to write my exam (by the court injunction), I withdrew my suit against UTech (seven days after) in good faith in order to concentrate on studying for the exams, which were due to commence on December 2, 2014. I never anticipated UTech's hostile response upon my doing so.

The University of Technology decided to resist/contest my suit by using the services of the very expensive high-powered law firm of Myers, Fletcher & Gordon.

In court, upon the preliminary objection of the university's lawyers, the courts agreed with them and declined jurisdiction to hear my case on its merit. To my surprise, it struck out my cause of action and ordered me to pay UTech costs for having sued it. The court ruled that the matter is (by law) not a matter for the courts, but for the present holder of the office of governor general of Jamaica as the university's 'visitor' to consider upon reference to him pursuant to S. 5 of the University of Technology Jamaica Act 1999 (UTech JA. Act)

Obviously, there is no equality of bargaining power between the University of Technology and me. The University of Technology could and did impose its WILL to prevent me from sitting my exams. It did so regardless of what the court ordered and without reference to the governor general, its 'visitor'.

Such inconsiderate action by the university has impeded the advancement of my education as a Jamaican and is contrary to the university's objects in its charter found in the First Schedule to UTech JA 1999. In refusing to refer the matter to the governor general, UTech is being a law unto itself.

Reference of the matter to the governor general is (by law) the duty of the University of Technology, but it has refused to do so pursuant to S.5 of the UTech Act. Instead, the university has applied to the court and obtained and served on me an order dated December 31, 2015, for me to pay to it the substantial cost of $855,013 even though UTech is still in possession of my aforementioned full fees.

 

INSULT TO INJURY

Mr Editor, Sir, to me (not yet a lawyer), something must be wrong. Isn't this an affront to common sense adding insult to the injury of preventing me from sitting me exams? I, therefore, decided to take my plea to the governor general (by letter to him dated January 16, 2016) for him to ask of UTech the following question:

"Why has the university not referred this matter to him (the governor general of Jamaica, as 'the visitor' of UTech), following upon the successful ruling the university had obtained in its favour from the court, (that it is the governor general and not the courts that has jurisdiction to deal with the matter) instead of going back to the said court to obtain a court order for me to pay to them $855,013 or face the logical legal consequence when UTech is still in possession of my full school fees?"

I do hope that the governor general will act promptly in the interest of justice. I would like to know whether I was wrong in seeking redress from the courts to enforce my rights as a Jamaican student at UTech.

So far, UTech's unexpected retaliation to me (in the media) is one of hostility and ridicule, asserting that "it will not be bullied" But, I wish to remind UTech that so far, there is no trial of this case on its merits, therefore, the (in)justice of the matter is still not yet decided in law.

Since it seems UTech is "too far gone for empathy", I'll soldier on in the belief that someday, when the future becomes the present, I will be vindicated.

- Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and dukefoote@gmail.com.