Calm Returns to Cuttington After Days of Violent Protest

SUAKOKO, Bong – Calm has returned to Cuttington University after nearly three days of violent protests by students, as the university’s board has announced James Tamba as the acting president of the university, in place of Herman Browne.

The students had begun their protests on Tuesday after members of the faculty decided to lay down their chalks, following a vote of no confidence in the university’s president, Browne. The faculty announced it could no longer work with Browne.

Led by Clint Layweh, the president of the Cuttington University Student Union, the students presented a statement noting that the university was failing to guarantee the highest quality education possible since professors were no longer in the classrooms.

The students also accused the administration of choosing trivial priorities over improving academic standards and running the university with a dictatorial tendency. They said Browne had refused to include the student union on decisions around any pertinent matters.

They further said since the advent of the new university president, there has been an increase in non-tuition fees while at the same time, there have been a decrease in the hours of electricity provided on campus and a decrease in the number of faculties and other university staff without any clear justification. Among the new costs, they said, was paying for copies of tests.

In addition to these changes, the students accused the Browne administration of not improving services to them, alleging that there was inadequate security on campus.

“Given that the students of Cuttington are overwhelmingly tired of Dr. Browne, his dictatorial tendencies, devilish plans, selfish solutions, and dubious implementations, we the students of this great citadel of African Academic Excellence, have decided to stage a peaceful standoff against the insensitive, wicked and greedy administrative construct of Dr. Herman Browne until the following are done to the satisfaction of the overwhelmingly angry but strong, brave and patriotic student community here at Cuttington,” the students wrote.

In their eight-count resolution presented to the bishop of the Episcopal Church of Liberia and chairman of the university’s Board of Trustee, Jonathan Hart, the students demanded that professors return to the classroom immediately to commence final activities for the current semester.

“That come what may, senior students must be allowed to take their exams and graduation should not go beyond the 29th of June 2018,” the demand noted.

The students also demanded that the increases in non-tuition fees be reversed and that the president be made to immediately leave the university to give way to interim management to that would complete the current semester.

They demanded formal apologies from the administration not later than May 25 for the disruption of their normal learning activities and for the number of hours of electricity provided to be increased from five to twelve hours a day.

The students also demanded from the administration a formal commitment to improve learning at the university and for the administration to support a good relationship with the community.

Following separate meetings with the students and faculty on Thursday, Hart announced that the dean for the College of Theology and the priest in charge of Epiphany Chapel, Rev. Fr. James Tamba, would be appointed as acting president of the university until the end of the current semester when a more comprehensive decision would be reached.

Hart had earlier promised the students that decision would be taken following a meeting of board members next weekend. However, the students disclosed that the date was too far. They demanded that the bishop announce an immediate decision, or he would not be allowed to leave the campus.

The students earlier on Tuesday and Wednesday blocked the university’s main entrance, preventing vehicles from entering and burned tires to indicate the seriousness of their protest. They also set up roadblocks on the main road to and from Gbarnga, holding placards calling for the resignation of Brown.

A student who spoke to The Bush Chicken on condition of anonymity said that senior students had been scheduled to take their final exams last week, but said the protests disrupted the plan.

Featured photo by Gbatemah Senah

Gbatemah Senah

Gbatemah is a graduate of the University of Liberia and a recipient of the Jonathan P. Hicks Scholarship for Mass Communications. In 2017, Senah won three Press Union of Liberia awards: Women's Rights Reporter of the Year, Legislative Reporter of the Year, and Land Rights Reporter of the Year. In 2018, he was also recognized as the Land Rights Reporter of the Year.

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