THE EDITOR, Sir:
I read a letter from a 'Gissy X' published in The Gleaner of Monday, October 1, 2012 stating that "the time has come for the Guild of Students to run parallel to, and not beneath, the general administration of the university". What the hell?
At the University of the West Indies (UWI), students are customers whose payments are for tuition, boarding and additional expenses. Additional features, such as the guild, are not rights, but traditionally have helped guide, not direct, policy decisions by the university's management.
I have heard Daniel Wilson, the guild president, speak about his insistence on not giving up his 'mandate', as if he were a prime minister or president of a nation. He should realise his role as head of a customer group that has a symbiotic relationship with the UWI management.
UWI students pay for a service that the university administration has a responsibility to provide at a high standard. As part of the customer service, UWI's students are allowed to use its resources to enhance their college experience by inviting participation and feedback through groups such as the guild. UWI's marketing efforts, in particular, have benefited from the guild's renowned social activities and programmes.
That said, the guild has developed into a different animal, and is expanding along the lines of a trade union. Trade unions typically develop as a response to actual, and perceived, injustices meted out to workers.
The particular 'injustice' in this case was the management's insistence on not delivering service (exam sittings) before full payment was received from customers, some of whom declared they were unable to pay. The reaction was student demonstrations, with resulting service disruptions, led by the guild.
MAKE RULES CLEAR
The management of the university must thus make clear what it will or will not allow from its customers and their representatives. If the guild is a formal part of the university, the UWI management must have oversight and ultimate decision-making authority.
If the guild is purely an advocacy group for students (customers), UWI should leave it alone to manage its affairs internally and cannot decide on the leadership. Its funding should also be separated from UWI funds and collected directly from the individual members.
In the present case, the UWI management is holding the guild leadership accountable for its association with recent on-campus civil disobedience and borderline criminal behaviour by some of its members/customers/students.
The guild should either be sanctioned/removed for its involvement in these acts or face legal action from the UWI.