Barbados Today – There seems to be a storm brewing in the Guild of Students at the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus (UWI) between Barbadian students and non-nationals.
This was made even more apparent following the sudden removal of the Barbadian Vice President through a no-confidence motion last week, brought by a President of the Association of Bahamians (TABS) Cave Hill, Terian Reid.
One source said the friction and subsequent ousting of the vice president stemmed from negligence, past allegations, as well as concerns about the use of transportation, which some say was being used “primarily for students who are non-nationals” despite every student paying amenity fees.
When contacted, President of the Guild of Students Thacher Loutin told Barbados TODAY she was not commenting in the media at this point.
However, one guild member who requested anonymity, described the development as nothing but drama that has now reached a high point.
“The situation has reached a boiling point where Barbadians can now really see the divide. And if and when we speak out on issue, non-national students always call us xenophobic yet when injustices are done to us somehow it is our fault. It is almost as if Bajans are going through somewhat of a ‘rape culture or slavery before emancipation,” said the source.
Following the no-confidence motion, which took place during the guild’s annual general meeting on October 10, a number of students raised concerns, charging that the correct procedures were not followed.
In light of this, the Political Science Students’ Association (PSSA) Cave Hill, has stepped in and is urging the student guild to hold a special general meeting, insisting that the “principles of natural law” were not followed.
However, in a release the next day, October 15, 2019, the guild said that 56.6 per cent of those present voted in favour of Reid’s removal.
“The voting was done by way of secret ballot and was concluded before 11 p.m. in order to facilitate commuting students on the last shuttle. Ms Reid was furnished with the results on the morning of Friday, October 11, 2019,” the statement said.
It further stated that Guild President Thacher Loutin, a Jamaican, had assumed the duties of the vice-president “until further notice”.
In the PSSA letter to Loutin, a copy of which Barbados TODAY obtained, it stated that several students were “distressed about the circumstances under which the motion of no-confidence was tabled”.
It said some students were especially concerned about the lack of adherence to the guild’s constitution.
“Many of us are of the view that the current constitution is inconsistent with the principles of natural justice and requires rectification. But even if this is not the case, we observe that neither the letter of the law nor the spirit of the law was relied upon that fateful night,” the PSSA said.
Adding that there were also concerned that the motion of no confidence was raised and voted for “impulsively”, the PSSA said it “beseech the guild to follow the guidelines in the Freedom of Assembly clause of the constitution’s Bill of Rights, and Article 41 (1), which speaks to the holding of special general meetings”.
“We ask that a form of judicial review be held at a special general meeting,” it added, suggesting that on the agenda should be a discussion on the guild’s constitution with the view of bringing it in line with modern practices, and ensuring that the constitutional principles of natural justice are adhered to.
Calling on the ousted vice-president to voice her stance, the PSSA said it also invited representatives of TABS to share their views on the matter during the special general meeting.
“We find this necessary in an effort to quell any appearance of injustice or ill-will, and to dismantle and utterly destroy the appearance of xenophobia,” the PSSA said.
One member of the PSSA told Barbados TODAY that association was merely “acting as a middle person in this whole situation”.
“We are not accusing the guild of xenophobia but we are trying to let the appearance of xenophobia not be out there. The fact that there is talk of it that is of concern to us,” he said.
One student told Barbados TODAY she believed the no-confidence motion against Reid should have been put to the entire school population.
“The guild claims they are not seeking to attack Barbadian students but every year there is some drama with any Bajan student who runs for office,” she added.
In its statement on Tuesday, the guild said it supported the expression of students’ opinions and concerns “provided that these are done respectfully and in accordance with the standards expected of a student of this esteemed university”.
“The guild denies any accusations of discrimination in relation to this process, which was duly executed in accordance with the Constitution. We will also treat seriously, any scurrilous allegations of xenophobia, intolerance or prejudice and will take such action as may be necessary to protect our integrity.
“Consequently, we urge students to refrain from participating in or promoting uninformed discussions that seek to harbour these unwelcomed sentiments,” it said, adding that the university continued to build a community that fostered a climate “which is open and welcoming” to diverse people, ideas and perspectives.
However, another student guild member, who requested anonymity, described the release from the student guild as a way of “infringing” on Barbadian students’ basic rights of freedom of speech.
“It isn’t right and the guild members have a lot to answer to the Barbadian students for,” said the source.
Barbados TODAY was unable to reach the ousted vice president, but understands that the PSSA was assisting her with a petition to press for reinstatement.
The petition had garnered 100 signatures up to this morning.