Thu | Oct 17, 2019

Donovan Stanberry | UWI rejects ‘ghetto’ slur - Defends system, staff in ­registration row

Published:Wednesday | September 18, 2019 | 12:26 AM

I write in response to the unfortunate opinion piece by Jaristotle’s Jottings characterising The University of the West Indies as an ­“administrative ghetto”. We feel compelled to correct this most unfortunate characterisation of The UWI-Mona’s student administrative system.

Indeed, we are acutely aware at The UWI-Mona that we exist as an institution because of our ­students. They are our primary stakeholders and we aim at all times to provide them with the highest standard of service. It is against this background that over the last 15 years, The UWI has invested heavily in a well-recognised student information system – Ellucian-Banner. Coupled with this system is a highly qualified, motivated and competent cadre of professionals.

It must, however, be noted that there are two broad requirements for all universities: an academic requirement, and a financial one. Higher education comes at a price. Students across the world are deemed registered when they have paid the required fees in full.

As at today, approximately 16,500 students have successfully registered for the 2019-2020 academic year. This represents nearly 90 per cent of our expected population. Whereas it would have been ideal to have all our students registered, we must accept that some students have not satisfied their financial obligations from a previous semester and, therefore, would not be permitted to proceed.

The UWI, Mona also operates within the context of operating a Student Information System (SIS) that is expected to manage the accounts of thousands of students. Each semester, the campus’ ­administration closely monitors the admission and registration process. In this regard, we host a registration village for the sole purpose of assisting our students with any issues that may arise. However, there certainly has not been any significant glitch in our system since July 2019 when registration began.

J$100 Fine preventing registration

A student being fined J$100 would not be representative of a loss of an ID card. To be specific, The UWI does not impose a fine for a lost ID card but charges a replacement fee. The J$100 fine that is being referenced is representative of the fine charged for a student sitting a UWI exam without their official UWI ID card. Please note that this fine does not block registration. What it does, however, is to block the student’s access to their grades as a means of ensuring compliance.

Grades from prior semesters not being available

As it relates to grades not being posted, we are not aware of any widespread failure to post students grades. If that were the case, we certainly would not have been able to register the ­approximately 90 per cent of our student population. Contrary to what the article asserts, a lack of grades generally does not prevent students from registering, save and except in instances where the grade from a previous semester is a prerequisite for a course in the current semester.

It is rather a lack of financial clearance that prevents students from registering. Happily, the article concedes that a university has the responsibility to collect outstanding fees to ensure the continuity of its operations.

Imposing Late Fees

Late fees do not represent a contrivance to extort monies from our students, as the article is intimating. It is to provide our students an opportunity to register after the closure of registration, but importantly to incentivise the need for students to register within the stipulated time frame. Indeed, we encourage our students to register early. At any rate, the Office of Student Financing, the Office of the Campus Registrar and the Office of the Principal spend a considerable amount of time trying to find ways of assisting students with their financial obligations.

As the new campus registrar, every student issue that has been brought to my attention has been resolved with the assistance of the competent assistant registrars, often within the same day. This is the standard of service we hope to maintain and even exceed.

Donovan Stanberry is campus registrar of The UWI, Mona. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com.