EDITORIAL - Making an ass of the law at UTech
Sometimes there is the letter of the law, then common sense. The people who run the University of Technology (UTech) won't be surprised if there are questions whether they possess the latter and whether they are too far gone for empathy.
The case of a young man with the weighty name of Duke St John-Paul Foote raises these concerns. He is enrolled in UTech's Faculty of Law.
Apparently, UTech requires that for students to be properly enrolled, they had to pay 80 per cent of their tuition fees by September 30. It then extended that deadline for the 80 per cent payment threshold by 15 days, to October 15. The remaining 20 per cent was to be paid by month end.
It's no secret that many students at Jamaica's tertiary institutions have serious difficulties finding tuition and other fees, which is a problem of these schools in the face of declining government subventions, in real and nominal terms, to them. Indeed, it is a matter with which policymakers continue to grapple. So, we do not make light of the stress on UTech and other institutions when students do not pay.
But there is common sense and the case of people like Duke St John-Paul Foote. Like many students, he appeared to have fudged on his registration to stay in school, without having met the 80 per cent payment to be fully registered for the current semester. He, however, cleared his entire bill a day before the October 31 deadline for final payment set by the university.
So, by the letter of the law, Duke St John-Paul Foote did not meet his obligation to pay 80 per cent of his fee by October 15. But in the end, he came through with all money before the time expired.
With the absence of arguments to suggest that Mr Foote was deliberately playing fast and loose with the system and that he could have paid earlier, he appears to be among the kind of student one would want to encourage: those who try to come through in a clutch. But for not having met the deadline for meeting the 80 per cent of payment, he was denied access to UTech services, including "the library or the online portal".
Those continued to be denied, on the face of it, even after he paid the full fee. Duke St John-Paul Foote's response was to get a court injunction barring UTech from delisting him or denying him access to its facilities or his classes. That injunction expired after seven days and Mr Foote appeared to have abandoned the case.
But UTech has reimposed its bans.
"The injunction has now elapsed and has ceased to have effect," said the university's lawyer, Gavin Goffe. "Mr Foote will not be allowed to access the library facilities or take exams this semester."
So, Mr Foote is likely to have to struggle for an extra semester to complete his degree. That could mean additional costs and, perhaps, debt.
And Mr Goffe reminded that Duke St John-Paul Foote could be liable for legal costs for having gone to court and abandoning the process part way. He probably didn't have the money to fight to the end.
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