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EDITORIAL - Overreach by NCU?

Published:Thursday | April 10, 2014 | 12:00 AM

AS A privately financed institution of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, Northern Caribbean University (NCU) is entitled to establish criteria for the enrolment of students and the code of behaviour to which they must adhere.

NCU is decidedly non-secular. That, however, does not mean it is allowed to be ridiculous, or has the right to dispense with the ideals of natural justice. And that, in the absence of a lucid explanation by the university, is precisely what appears to have been the behaviour of the university in the case of Sha-Shana James.

Ms James, 21, is a student of the Mandeville, Jamaica campus of NCU. But she is banned from participating in student activities for her remaining two years at the university, having been suspended for two weeks. Heaven knows what will now be her fate, having gone public with her case.

Ms James' infraction was that, as part of a team that depicted a wedding cake in a cheerleading competition, she played the role of the groom in the 'cake-topper', during which, in a bow, she kissed the hand of the bride. In a sensible environment, that would be seen as a simple, clean, role play - an innocent bit of acting.

Ms James explained that she decided to play the role of the groom because a male would have been too heavy at the top of the pyramid into which the girls had formed themselves. But the arbiters of morals and procedures say that she fiddled with the routine without being approved by the campus' social committee.

Further, Ms James was accused of breaching other regulations. She appeared before the committee of arbiters without her identification card and she had a pierced tongue.

What is the punishment for?

What is not clear is whether Ms James' punishment was for the acting pretence of being a male and kissing another female's hand. Were the pierced tongue and absence of the ID card separate issues that ought to have been dealt with separately?

What appears to have been the case from this distance is that the sink and all its accoutrement were thrown at Ms James, without, it seems, the student being afforded an opportunity for full and proper representation. That, to this newspaper, seems like a breach of natural justice. Perhaps the university's leadership will offer more information, with greater clarity, including how it proposes to act towards the other students who were part of the cheerleading group.

Another observation: if a bit of role play of kissing hands so discomfited the guardians of NCU, it is surprising that they tolerate things like a cheerleading contest on its campus. That may soon change.

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