Sun | May 20, 2018

The other side of the UTech debacle

Published:Sunday | November 25, 2012 | 12:00 AM


I note with some bemusement the condemnatory responses to the recent incident that took place at the University of Technology, Jamaica (UTech), involving campus security guards and a suspected gay student. Individuals with a public platform, civil-society groups and government officials cry shame on the security guards and student mob, and call for tolerance of people who are different.

What bemuses me is this: A number of the responses carry no equal condemnation of the behaviour suspected of the student at the centre of the debacle. They focus rather on tolerance. Tolerance of what? Two male students fraternising in a public UTech bathroom? This is the issue at core.

One should not aim for political correctness at the sacrifice of the ennoblement of simple decency. I am sure many students work and carry out activities with persons they know are homosexual, without wishing to harm or embarrass them. Tolerance is not at issue here.

Correctly, it must be clear that the vigilante behaviour of the students and guards was reproachable. It must also be made clear, however, that students, homosexual or heterosexual, engaging in behaviour that appropriately belongs in a private space is unacceptable.

Thwaites response balanced

The minister of education, the Rev Ronald Thwaites, recognised this. He was careful to point out the unacceptable nature of the gay suspect's behaviour, while chiding the actions of the security guards and student mob. Minister Thwaites' response was balanced, it was refreshing. I commend the minister on his tenure, so far. He displays a keen appreciation for the norms of the Jamaican society and the place of education within those norms.

One might argue that tolerance became an issue because the reaction of the guards and student mob would have been different, were a heterosexual couple suspected of the same behaviour. However, tolerance must be promoted within the context of the expectation of decency and propriety on the part of its beneficiaries.

I imagine the trauma many students would have experienced, happening upon the spectacle or hearing of the suspected indiscretion of the so-called gay student. One student remarked on the news that he did not know how he could continue to use the bathroom. This is understandable; homosexual behaviour is seen as perverse, considering what is involved. It doesn't help that any shade of it is taken to a public bathroom. Decency, please.

As the various agendas are advanced, let us remember that self-control and restraint are expected on all sides for the good order of society.