UG students’ society signals legal action over hikes in administrative fees

Students gathered under the benabs and on the catwalks for the meeting to discuss the implementation of new administrative fees by the university.

Despite students calling for protests, the leadership of the University of Guyana Students’ Society (UGSS) yesterday said taking legal action is the “justified and righteous approach” to addressing what it views as the unlawful implementation of new administrative fees.

The UGSS hosted a town hall-style meeting yesterday afternoon to provide students with a platform to express their grievances and to share the UGSS’ position on the matter.

Although the university boasts a population of 8,000, only a few dozen turned out to the forum yesterday at the Turkeyen Campus.

However, while the majority of students registered their support for the body, the society’s means of dealing with the issue did not garner the support of all there.

“…You’ve been saying over and over they’re different ways to skin a cat, but I think every time there’s an issue here on campus we always take this diplomatic approach every single time. I think it’s time we find a new way to skin this cat. …last year we had the raise of fees, we take the slow boat. I’ve read in papers before…of things happening and the UGSS choosing to take the slow boat. Stop taking the slow boat. You have people that are sacrificing time and money to come here and the slow boat is not going to work. You got to round up the troops. If the troops start with this, go in front the Vice-Chancellor office and make some noise…,” one student commented in response to statements made by the UGSS President Norwell Hinds.

Hinds, in response, said the approach was not meant to be diplomatic, but rather a strategic one. In an interview with the media later on, he noted that such an approach, once taken, can see benefits that will succeed his executive body.

“…He says that there’s many ways to skin a cat and you wanna try different ways. Now we’ve tried the way of blocking the gates, we’ve tried the way of pickets. This, as you know…is the first time that the UGSS has contemplated legal action; going to the court to resolve a dispute. I am saying that we have to demonstrate that we could use different ways to skin a cat and that our way is a way that will stand and it will stand for this executive and it will stand for the next executive,” Hinds stated.

He explained that the basis for the suit lies in the differing positions between the university’s administration and the UGSS. While the administration is claiming that a decision to implement the new administrative fees covered the 2017-2018 academic year, the UGSS is saying that the decision could have only been valid for the financial year and that a new budget ought to have been passed.

Hinds noted that this could only be approved by the Council, one that is yet to be instituted for this year.

“…Until you present the budget for 2018, as approved by the Council, there’s locus standi…so our view is that we want to go to the court and let the court say to us whether we are right in our interpretation or the administration is right in its interpretation,” Hinds related.

He revealed that the UGSS has been exploring its legal options since last week, and while the UGSS does not have protests planned, Hinds did not rule out protest action as a possibility in the future. Furthermore, the UGSS president said that the society would be in support of students in “whatever action they feel is necessary to demonstrate how the burden affects them.”

“Students feel hurt by this…we stand in solidarity with any action the student takes because we recognize that students will feel the burden differently and they have their individual right to say how that burden affects them…,” Hinds said.

Hinds had encouraged students during the meeting to wear symbols of protest in support of the cause, identified by the UGSS’ slogan, “Fix your system, not our fees.”

“We cannot as students continue to sit on campus and accept all that is being done. They are asking for an increase in administrative fees that is connected to services. We had the tuition increase, we see new ACs, we see toilets going in, etc. Where is the service that they’re asking for these new increases? No grades, you got a…six year old child being bitten on the field by dogs running around …you want me to pay much more for a review…anybody who has ever paid for a review will tell you sometimes it takes you a whole year, two years to get a response. Why should I be paying more for it? And that is what we need to keep in mind and stand together as we do it,” one student voiced.

Hers was just one of a number of complaints about the poor workings of the administration, which included issues about poor lighting on campus, grades not being released on time and claims of poor money management.

On Thursday, the university dispatched an email to its students announcing the new fee structure, which includes the introduction of new fees as well as the revision of old ones. The UGSS and students, independently, have voiced their opposition to the decision but UG’s administration holds that the former UGSS executive was instrumental in the decision-making process.

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