Who Protects the Rights of Nonviolent Students at UL?

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The state-run University of Liberia is an academic home to about 30,000 Liberians studying in various disciplines. The majority of us there are low income earners with ambition to study and explore ways to see what life has for us.

When we were taking the entrance and placement examinations to enroll, we realized that we would be spending four years as prescribed by the university authorities to earn our undergraduate degrees.

Contrary to the perception that the university has caused us to accept, we are instead compelled to spend at least seven years because of delays that arise not only due to a student’s fault, but to a greater degree by disruptions and violent demonstrations by a group of renegade students with a number far below the nonviolent ones.

As images in my possession of this renegade group can depict, they are always less than 500 students that stage the violence which stalls all academic activities at the university, sometimes causing it to close for months.

The infamous and recalcitrant (stubborn) campus based Student Unification Party (SUP) “militants” are always sure of staging violent protests every semester since we enrolled, and peaceful students who fear getting injured have no option but to run out of their classes and go home.

This situation then creates room for relaxation, for instructors to attend to other needs, while at the end of the month they receive salaries to the disadvantage of students who should receive an education in return.

What remains surprising is that as these men and a few women begin their rebellious activities, the UL Administration sits and watches them with this comment, “They are exercising their rights.”

Yes, I agree that in Article 17 of the Liberian Constitution, “All persons, at all times, in an orderly and peaceable manner, shall have the right to assemble and consult upon the common good.” However, there is no provision that assembling in an orderly and peaceable manner results in disturbing the peace of others.

But for the “SUP ‘militants’ and the University of Liberia’s student leadership, violence is a way of solving any problem, and without their approval no academic activities can go on.”

Where are the rights of nonviolent students, too? Is the UL administration saying that violence is the rule and therefore all should be violent? Is it wrong to be law abiding and humble at the UL?

In recent days, the Board of Trustees and the administration announced an increment in credit fees from LRD$175 to LRD$360, backing the decision that it will enable the administration to provide some services not available at the university.

Instead of looking up to the administration to fulfill the vow or fail, the militants are on the rampage again, disrupting activities and claiming that they are poor and cannot afford the new fees.

While at the Capitol on May 26 insulting lawmakers, the renegade group was threatening to disrupt every activity on campus this week.

Are these people the only Liberians with a right to education in this country? What becomes of thousands of students who have paid their fees and prepared to sit in class for lessons?

As a result of the opportunity given SUP ‘militants’ to constantly stage violent protests on campus, they extended it to government early this year when they stoned officers of the Liberia National Police (LNP) over the arrest of Vandalark Patrick.

This too, obstructed our test schedule, and we had to extend the allocated timeframe.

Although the UL administration and Liberian government are watching these deviants obstructing, impeding and infringing on the rights of the majority peace loving students of the university, there are some ethical values they (government and UL administration) have to take into consideration.

From the Judeo-Christian perspective, Proverbs one of the books of wisdom, says: “Whoso rewardeth evil for good, evil shall not depart from his house (17:13). He that justifieth the wicked and he that condemneth the just, even they both are abomination to the Lord (17:15).”

The Liberian government and UL Administration should also realize that attribution of rights to law breakers has the propensity to undermine God’s command and to entrench evil in society.

In Romans13:3, Paul the Apostle said rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. The opportunity given a minute group of people to always stage violence on the campus then brings this question to mind: Is authority at the University of Liberia a terror to evil, or good?

As UL Administration and government observe this ongoing chaos at the university with inaction, they must also note that they are encouraging others to join the violent group since the perpetrators go with impunity.

In the absence of social control remember, disastrous collective behavior is enhanced, and this is what the UL administration and government’s reluctance to take action against perpetrators of violence on campus is teaching others.

Do not be surprised to see more people joining these unruly students whose actions are considered human rights; while keeping calm, and being law abiding and respectful to leaders are considered human weaknesses.

About the author: Joaquin M. Sendolo is a senior student of the University of Liberia pursuing his second bachelor’s degree in Mass Communication.

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