Wed | Sep 18, 2019

Jaristotle's Jottings | UWI – the administrative ghetto

Published:Thursday | September 12, 2019 | 12:09 AM

The late radio talk show host, Wilmot ‘Motty’ Perkins, used to refer to the Mona campus of The University of the West Indies (UWI) as an “intellectual ghetto”.

I have no intention of casting any such judgement on the academic capacity of UWI; however, the institution operates as an ‘administrative ghetto’ with little consideration for its paying public, otherwise called students.

I have many close friends whose children are already attending or are about to enter UWI. Sadly, for the last two weeks, they have been relaying horror stories about the registration process, especially for the returning students.

Before I delve into the UWI issues, let me set the utopic background to university registration based on my experience overseas. First, students are customers. They are paying for services offered by the university, that of education. The university is not doing them a favour by registering them as students. It is a business relationship predicated on rules for both parties. Registration of qualified individuals is the front end of that business relationship, where customer service should be at its peak.

Utopia

All relevant departments of the university must be working in unison. Grades must be posted and returning students cleared beforehand to register for a new year and attendant courses. Likewise, failing grades and resit requirements must be posted and individuals advised in a timely manner. New students who have met the matriculation requirements must be likewise cleared for registration.

Nightmare a la Mona

The electronic [computer] platform upon which registration is managed must be able to seamlessly manage the input and output demands that come with student registration, especially at the beginning of an academic year. It goes without saying that the administrators of the system must anticipate glitches and be prepared to exercise flexibility so that their customers are not disenfranchised.

The expressions of frustration regarding registration at UWI are not encouraging. First, the process is not treated as a customer-centric activity, but more as a ‘them versus us’ process. Let’s deal with the issues facing returning students.

Quite understandably, as with any business entity, UWI’s policy is that students will not be allowed to start a semester with any balance owing from a previous semester, regardless of the nature of that balance. So, here is a case where a returning student is barred from registering because the system indicates that there is a $100.00 balance for a lost identification card. However, when the student produces her identification card at the Student Administrative Services Section and explains that she never lost it or reported it lost, she is told that she must join the mile-long line and pay because they cannot override the system. Backra-master attitudes and hold down tek weh practices. What poppycock.

Then, there are issues with grades from the last academic year which have not been posted. As a result, affected students cannot register for the new year because the system has blocked them from doing so.

The system makes no allowances for delays in registration due to the administrative blunders of the campus administration.

But wait, the frustration goes further: non-registration precludes making payments. When payment deadlines have passed, late payment fees begin to accrue, imposing further angst on the poor students.

Now, you be the judge and tell me if this is not tantamount to ghetto-my-litis. For such an acclaimed institution as UWI, one would expect first-world administrative systems to be in place, systems that would demonstrate to the students that what they are being taught in the hallowed halls of learning is being put into practice right there at UWI. Alas, the testimonials suggest anything but good.

Mutty is quite likely laughing his head off.

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