Two units of anti-riot police prevented what would have developed into a full-grown demonstration initiated by a group of students from the University of Liberia (UL) in Monrovia early Monday, January 13. The students were reportedly acting under the guise of student militants.
Some of them — who became disgruntled — had gathered as early as 7 a.m. on the Capitol Hill campus of the UL; barricading the entire road. This later escalated to burning tires and other combustible materials.
Their actions, were an attempt to disrupt normal activities at the National Legislature, which were set to have its resuming program Monday. They had also intended to use their tactic to draw the attention of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf on the indefinite closure of the institution.
The quick intervention of baton-wielding police officers who swung into action, prevented the situation from getting out of hand. The officers started chasing away the students and stopped them from causing more disturbance to normal activities.
Monday’s attempted demonstration halted traffic as well as stalled the free movement of pedestrians for at least half an hour.
The students’ protests started last November when they called for the resignation and removal of the vice president for Academic Affairs/Provost, Dr. Wede Brownell.
At that time students marched with a symbolic casket bearing an effigy (a doll) representing UL’s Provost and calling on Dr. Brownell to resign with immediate effect.
“We will stop at nothing until Dr. Brownell takes her leave,” the students threatened.
In an effort to bring the situation under control, a call went out from the University of Liberia’s Faculty Association (ULFA) for the Provost to resign her post or “we will not teach.”
The instructors of the flagship institution decided to lay down their chalk until something concrete was done about their salaries. They also demanded that fulltime employment be extended to a certain category of instructors.
The leadership of the University of Liberia’s Student Union (ULSU) also joined the call for the immediate resignation of Dr. Brownell.
ULSU’s statement under the signatures of Acting president, Anthony F. Williams, as well as Calvin Raymond Summon, its secretary general, helped confirm that the system the Provost devised has failed to deliver for the students–and for the university.
ULSU noted that test schedules, the registration processes, ‘Add and Drop,’ amongst others activities, were characterized by a cycle of errors, from which, according to the student group, Dr. Brownell failed to learn.
ULSU, like the faculty association, went further to call on the Board of Trustees of the University of Liberia to convince the student populace of the Provost’s credentials. They said she claimed to have earned her doctorate degree (Ph.D.) in Accounting, noting that in spite of this terminal degree that she claims to have, she is unable to teach the fundamentals of Accounting (Acct. 003).
Following last year’s disturbances on the UL campuses in the wake of call for Dr. Brownell to resign, classes were suspended, but it was expected that normal academic activities would have resumed by now.
The situation continues to deteriorate as the faculty reinforced its stand on the removal of Dr. Brownell.
The ongoing saga turned bitter when the embattled vice president branded some of UL’s teaching staff as ‘crooks and criminals.’ Following that attack on some of the staffers, Dr. Brownell has vowed to remain and right the UL’s ‘messy situation.’