Police Took Backseat during UL Protests?

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Protesting UL students set a tyre on fire on the boulevard that runs between the university and the Foreign Ministry which houses the office of President George Weah, on Capitol Hill

As UL students shut down a major economic corridor in two strategic locations for hours on Feb. 2, uniformed police officers were scarce

Last Friday’s protests on both campuses of the state run university was staged by aggrieved students chanting their revolutionary slogans and disrupting normal activities at the university.  The protest, which begin at about 9.32 a.m., also obstructed the free movement of vehicles, while many business centers were closed in fear of the protest.

The latest protest which, according to a campus release, was staged by a group of students calling themselves the Students Unification Party (SUP) and other student based organizations, was intended to draw the attention of the Liberian Government and to demand the immediate resignation of the president of the university, Dr. Ophelia Inez Weeks.

At the university’s Fendall campus the student group set roadblocks preventing vehicles from plying the highway from Kakata to Monrovia. During the commotion at least four officers from the Liberia National Party(LNP) paid a short visit and left; however, the presence of PSU and ERU officers was not felt as during previous demonstrations at the state run university.

When the Daily Observer newspaper contacted the LNP, its spokesman, Sam Collins, noted that sometimes the security strategy changes as the situation unfolds, adding that the LNP’s short visit was intended to engage with the student leaders and the UL administration on the main campus.

UL Students block the Paynesville-Kakata Highway at Fendall Junction

According to a release dated February 2, 2018, Dr. Weeks reiterated in a meeting with students on January 31 that the 8,000 affected students would not be allowed to complete their registration process, and as long as she remained president of the University, only 2,000 students would be allowed, a development which intensified the student’s action on Friday.

Dr. Weeks, according to reports, previously stated that students who had already deposited their fees into the University’s account during the closure of the process, would have their fees refunded.

SUP, in its release, stated on Friday that it believes that such unilateral decision by Dr. Weeks to disallow these students from acquiring higher education at the state run university is unreasonable and unjustifiable.

Rejecting 8,000 plus students from pursuing higher education is in violation of Article 6 of the 1987 Constitution and Article 26 of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights; her action also contradicts the pro-poor agenda of the new government which guarantees equal  access to education for all citizens, the released noted.

It may be recalled that previous protests by UL students prompted the University of Liberia Board of Trustees to mandate the UL Administration to unconditionally reopen the process for approximately 10,000 students who could not complete due to the tedious nature of the registration process or as a result of system failure and a poor electronic data processing unit.

Meanwhile, during the protest in Fendall, Bong County District #3 Representative J. Marvin Cole pleaded with the aggrieved students. “I have come here today from Gbarnga to talk to you to please open the road; we have understood your plight. As I speak to you, I just got a communication from the president’s office that they were in a meeting with the UL Administration, and I can assure you that at the end of the meeting this will be resolved,” Rep. Cole pleaded.

Following Representative Cole’s intervention, the aggrieved students headed by student Siafiah Kanneh told his colleagues that if the process is not reopened on Monday, they would be left with no alternative but to continue the struggle until their plight is addressed.

Mr. Urey tried to understand the UL students’ concerns and urged them to clear the road

Meanwhile, following the  latest protest, the Government of Liberia has assured the University of Liberia of its readiness to resolve the institution’s registration problem which led to student protest on two campuses of the university and parts adjacent on Friday.

In a release issued on Sunday, the Liberian Government made an assurance to digitize and automate the university’s entire registration system and provide resources to upgrade the its ICT infrastructure to enable students and faculty to perform regular academic functions digitally. The decision was made at an emergency meeting of the Board of Trustees of the University of Liberia on Saturday, February 3, 2018 on the Capitol Hill campus.

According to a release by the UL Administration, attending the Board meeting as special guests were high profile government officials, including the Minister of State for Presidential Affairs, Hon. Nathaniel F. McGill; the Minister of Finance and Development Planning, Hon. Samuel D. Tweh, Jr; the Legal Advisor to the President, Counselor Archie Bernard; and Minister of Education-designate, Prof. D. Ansu Sonii.

A UL Protester placards his demand to the president of the institution

Furthermore, UL President Dr. Ophelia Inez Weeks is excepted to meet with student leaders from various campus-based organizations today, Monday, February 5, 2018 on the University’s Fendall campus.

Dr. Weeks will today provide information on the outcome of the Board meeting, as well as address other issues affecting the institution. She will be joined by the Minister of Education-designate Professor Sonii, who will also address student leaders.

For nearly two and a half months now the campuses of the University of Liberia have been in a state of turmoil with students demonstrating in demand of the extension of the registration process which was officially closed by authorities of the University of Liberia in November 2017.

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17 COMMENTS

  1. The university should be tough with these rebels. They do not want to learn. MOst of them only know fighting and killing. Not everybody can go to the university. Close the university and let these rebels go sit down. Once we give in to their demands, it will never end.

    • Understandably but you also need to look at the other side of the coin. It must be addressed as well; otherwise you are going to end up with the same results. Why would the school receive students’ registration fees first before determining whether or not they meet the prerequisite of registration or enrollment? That should be the last thing in my opinion…

    • Students can express their feelings in a more civilized and Peaceful ways. Road block is not the right way, they should’ve protested without blocking the road, and making other suffered because of their wishes. Unacceptable!

  2. Faima, you have no understanding about unfolding at the University. You only look at the action of students, but not the causes that led to their action. It’s really SAD, but it is not a surprise for someone like you to spew out these inapt thoughts. The action of the students was justifiable and overly rational.

    • Hey Bro. Martin – I beg to differ that the action of the students was “justifiable and overly rational.” If what I saw and read in the previous reporting is accurate as was reported, then the burning of school properties is in no way justifiable. It is their parents’ tax dollars that paid for those properties, so destroying them makes no logical sense, let alone being justified. They cannot correct the wrong by doing wrong.

      These are university students and are therefore expected to be methodical in addressing situation such as this. They must not give authority the room to label them what they are not. Resulting in destruction of school properties is way below them and should not be encouraged. There are better ways to approach this and they should be methodical in the process in order to get the desired results. If UL students approach to every problem is demanding the immediate removal of people in authority and subsequent destruction of properties, then this is not a winning strategy and not well thought out…

      However, I must agree that the administration’s approach of handling this is unorthodox and not encouraging at all. You do not subdue crises by exacerbating the crises. It seems that’s exactly what Dr. Weeks did when she told the students that, “…as long as she remained president of the university, only 2,000 students would be allowed…” as reported. Those were reckless remarks unfortunately.

  3. In less than two months, university students at the the University of Liberia, have decided to protest on two different occasions as a way of calling attention to their plight. Unfortunately on both occasions, some students became extremely indignant and things fell apart quickly. No one complains that students do not have a right to protest. What should be understood by the students is that when they go out to protest, students should conduct themselves in a civilized manner.

    During the first week of the year when they protested on the main campus of the university of Liberia, the students detained the university president, Dr. Ophelia Weeks, for a 7-hour period. That move on the part of the students was contemptible and inappropriate. Law enforcement was called in to end the unscrupulous seige. Thanks be to God, no one got injured! During the second time around of the students’ protest, violence broke out again and the obstreporous crowd could not be contained by law enforcement.

    What’s going on?
    Do the students have an elected student leader? If such a leader exists, is she or he a kind of a pantywaist or a namby-pamby? I certainly hope not! If there is a student Rep, his or her responsibility should have been to negotiate on behalf of the students. There is no report that states that such a demoncratic step-by-step process took place. If it did, I stand to be corrected. From my anonymous source, there wasn’t such an interaction.

    Let’s take a quick look at two of the students’ demands:
    1, The president, Dr. Weeks is autocratic and defiant and
    2. The university has an obligation to increase student enrollment.
    In my opinion and I hope in the opinion of most people, the above listed are “talking points” not demands. It will be considered a “demand” if for instance the university president, Dr. Weeks and the governing body say that “tuition will be increased by 50%”. Furthermore, the students cannot demand the president’s ouster because she is perceived by them to be autocratic or defiant. Students are entitled to their opinions, but not the fact! Also, it’s not the students’ responsibility to demand more student enrollment. However, if students’ tuition rises by 50%, well than, the ouster of the president could be an absolute demand. My analysis is hypothetical.

    Bottom line.
    It’s good to protest. Civil disobedience is a unique way to protest. But a violent protest makes the protesters look bad. I hope that the students will return to class immediately. Let’s all consider this as a teachable moment for the students. The students’ representative must be respected. She or he has a right to engage the university president and her staff in a way that’s convivial. Violent protests are counterproductive.

  4. the bible said love your enemy and pray for those that mistreat you.so let us love one another to be able to understand how to live a life of peace and happiness and joy of life.but if we don’t then we are not going to have peace

  5. For God sake, we are living in the 21st Century – the Age of the internet and digitization. The rest of the world is doing everything possible to catch up with modern civilization while Liberians are the only ones refusing to graduate from this primitive ways. Honestly, if the University of Liberia is willing, it is never going to be a difficult task to introduce and maintain online registration system that will put an end to student protest regarding the registration process. I am a student of the University of Liberia, and had been there for the past five years. The current registration system is insane and frustrating. It needs to be changed. The change we want in our nation has to start from the “macrocosm of the larger society” as we refer to the University of Liberia. And so, I support the student peaceful protest. I want this to be in demand for the entire registration system to be digitize. Let them get rid of this step by step confusing and wicked registration process on campus. I know it is Dr. Weeks plan to revamp and improve the University but she needs to do it wisely. There’s no way you can have the same chaotic system and set a month period for over twenty thousand students to complete registration. No way that is possible considering the gap in staffs to student ratio. The miscalculation has been made, and she needs to realize it and move on. Dr Weeks should allow the remaining 8000 students to register. Next Semester, I expect a different and effective registration process. If I were to recommend, I will recommend that she set a team of local and international experts to develop the best digital online registration system that will suit the student populace at the state run University. I am done.

  6. I have two and half beefs with this reckless action of the students the university for Liberia. Firstly what is it so much about this darn registration that people who call themselves university students, people who are specializing in research and analysis of issues, processes and situations affecting the country, in short people who are committed to finding the answers and solutions to societal problems and yet, in collaboration with the university administration they can’t figure out this one registration problem which has dogged them for the past how many years, ten? Or even more? What kind of university could this be in that regard, that can even resolve such a problem about itself? Second, my other beef is with the leadership representing the students. Why must the students be represented by this so-called SUP and not ULSU, which is supposed to be the leadership elected by the entire leadership? SUP represents only members that subscribe to its aims and objectives on that campus and if by extension other students benefit from its advocacies or activities, so be it. But SUP is not the elected representative body of the entire student population on campus. The University of Liberia Student Union-ULSU, is that body! This seems to be one of the problems in this whole rigmarole. SUP needs to back off and let ULSU play its rightful leadership role and irrespective of the fact ULSU is predominantly SUP-based. My half beef, a footnote of sorts has to do with the caption of this story, relative to “the police taking a back seat during the students’ protest.” This headline and by implication is instigators. What did the author of this story expect the police to do, intervene with tear gas? Or plastic bullets? Or rattan? Exactly what did this author expect the police to do without escalating a volatile situation which he, Mr. Journalist Simeon even neglected to say in this article?

  7. Corrected version:

    I have two and half beefs with this reckless action of the students in this crisis. Firstly what is it so much about this darn registration that people who call themselves university students, people who are presumably specializing in research and analysis of issues, processes and situations affecting the country, in short people who are committed to finding the answers and solutions to societal problems and yet, in collaboration with the university administration they cannot figure out the answer to this one registration problem which has dogged them for the past how many years, ten? Or even more? What kind of university could this be in that regard that can’t even resolve such a problem about itself? Second, my other beef is with the leadership representing the students. Why must the students be represented by this so-called SUP and not ULSU, which is supposed to be the leadership elected by the entire student body? SUP represents only members that subscribe to its aims and objectives on that campus, and if by extension other students benefit from its advocacies or activities, so be it. But SUP is not the elected representative body of the entire student population on that campus. The University of Liberia Student Union-ULSU, is that body! This seems to be one of the problems in this whole rigmarole. SUP needs to therefore back off and let ULSU play its rightful leadership role and irrespective of the fact ULSU is predominantly SUP-based. My half beef, a footnote of sorts has to do with the caption of this story, relative to “the police taking a back seat during the students’ protest.” This headline and by implication is instigators! What did the author of this story expect the police to do, intervene with tear gas? Or plastic bullets? Or rattan? Exactly what did this author expect the police to do without escalating an already volatile situation which he, Mr. Journalist Simeon even neglected to say in this article?

  8. Thanks Apostle Saide,

    Your Godly hominy resonates. But, Apostle Saide, we are not talking about hatred on this blog, man. The students at our nation’s premier university are looting and disturbing the peace. What should we do? Let it go like that? What do you think?

    Rev., you have a responsibility like us to bring sanity to the unstable situation at the university. Pray for peace. Will you agree Rev.?
    Have a nice day man.

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