Where Is It?

UWICLUBS.com Goes Black

Yesterday, UWICLUBS.com went black. This is in response to the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and Protect Intellectual Property Act (PIPA) currently being debated in the US.

Online giants such as Google and Wikipedia are up in arms over the legislation and have begun a worldwide web protest against it. Today, the English section of Wikipedia is black. Other popular sites have also opted to “blackout” in protest.

The movement has also made its way to Trinidad and Tobago.

UWICLUBS.com has decided to join the big guns in their quest to stop SOPA and PIPA. Creative director, Aneil Lutchman, shares his thoughts with CampusPride.

Q&A with Aneil Lutchman, Creative Director, UWICLUBS.com

Q: You’re probably one of the first sites in the world to begin the internet blackout protest in response to SOPA and PIPA. As the creative director of UWICLUBS.com, can you comment on your thoughts about the controversial legislation and why you felt it was necessary to include your site in the cause?

A: It isn’t so much to increase awareness because I think the big sites like Google and Wikipedia have that covered. I wanted to support the protest in any way I could because sites like UWICLUBS.com stand to suffer from SOPA. One more thing. Another reason i wanted to black out my site is to highlight the lack of action by groups like the (UWI) Guild of Students who can’t seem to see further than Jamaica.

Q: Can you give an example to those who may not understand how UWICLUBS will be affected by SOPA?

A: UWICLUBS wouldn’t be affected yet because we’re not in the US. In any case we don’t reproduce copyrighted material. But any laws that attack freedom of speech would eventually affect us if a big, well-funded institution was to have an issue with something published on the site.

Q: Michael O’Leary called everything Google et al are doing as a “cute gimmick” and urges them to come forward with solutions rather than embark on this blackout protest which doesn’t address “the underlying issue”. Comment?

A: I think he has a point…but the simplest solution that I see is to not rush to get the law passed and get more input from stakeholders so that the laws could be more refined, or search engines could modify their algorithms to reduce piracy.

Read more about the “blackout” here

Also, check out  UWICLUBS.com – an online newsletter and database for clubs, societies and associations within UWI.

UWICLUBS.com joins Google, Wikipedia and other internet heavyweights in the blackout protest against the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and Protect Intellectual Property Act (PIPA) currently being debated in the US Congress.

More soon.

UWI Reaches Out

Almost hanging off the edge of page thirteen, in one of the daily newspapers, was this article, ‘UWI wants to hear from you’. A small article – no more than 500 words – with a seemingly big message to send.

“The University of the West Indies,” it began, “is in the process of developing its 2012-2017 strategic plan and has made a renewed call to its external stakeholders to contribute to the initiative.”

Several words instantly jumped out at me: “process”; “strategic”; “plan”; “stakeholders”; and “initiative”.

According to the article, the five-year plan is expected to add to the “successes of the current strategic plan,” also known as, Strategic Transformation for Relevance, Impact, Distinctiveness and Excellence (STRIDE 2007-2012).

This “initiative” will involve reviewing of the university’s “mission, vision and values”. The review is expected to yield “top strategic shifts” which would then help the UWI – get this – “maintain its position as the leader in Caribbean higher education and research.”

The article goes on to say that internal and external “stakeholders can share ideas on how to move forward as this fourth five-year term begins. Yes, there have been four of these plans thus far.  According to the math, there have been twenty years of reviewing thus far.

The venture will be headed by UWI Vice-Chancellor Professor E. Nigel Harris, head of the Central Strategic Planning Committee (CSPC). The team has launched a website which will allow stakeholders the chance to share their experiences at the University of the West Indies. Professor Harris has stressed the importance of involving everyone in the planning process “so that we might more efficiently service our region.” The website in question is http://www.uwi.edu/strategicplan2012-2017.

Instant feedback 

Internal and external stakeholders means  the students of this university will get an opportunity to have their say. But will they really? Who can guarantee the “feedback” of many will not be casually tossed like the comments some of us care to make on the end-of-term course evaluation forms? Words are like currency in this instance, and maybe some would like to have an assurance that they will have a return on their investment. There maybe students already dismissing this new initiative because of how they have been treated by the university. What measures are being taken by the CSPC to once again secure the trust of its student body in order to get adequate feedback?  Does the CSPC even care about that?

Without the voice of the students this “strategic plan” will be a colossal failure. Positive steps cannot be made unless all stakeholders are involved. Voices must be heard (or in this case read) from all sides; students, parents, staff, and anyone else who is affected by the University of the West Indies. However, the issue of trust is still smouldering below the surface. It has been lost between the student body and the administration. Unless this is seriously addressed there can be no “strategic” push to improve the institution.  Think of it as a marriage. If the couple is having problems the marriage isn’t going to fix itself overnight if you ask relatives to say what they think of the union’s progress and suggest a new way forward. At the end of the day all the couple would have are suggestions. The underlying issue is the absence of trust between the two. How do we fix that? How do we get students to trust the university’s administration once again? How do we show them that we are interested in their feelings and that they do matter?

Before the Committee gets upset with me here let me just say that I am not shooting down this effort. I’m not too thrilled about it either. I am merely providing feedback through this blog. To a point it is commendable, the effort made by Professor Harris and the CSPC, but it maybe a stride ahead of itself. The aforementioned questions should be answered first before going forward, after all, the students are stakeholders…right? The UWI wants to hear from ALL stakeholders. It should take into account any conflict that may compromise the drive to really be a leader in Caribbean higher education and research. Now that’s being strategic.

Reasoning 

The fact remains that this plan has already been set up and the website mentioned earlier exists. To the readers of this blog who are students, I implore you to give feedback anyway. Have your say. Think about your experiences at the UWI and compare it with the institution’s mission, vision and values. Write them down. Share them with Professor Harris and his team. Let us at least try to help rebuild our university and regain a sense of pride in it. I know it is very difficult for some of you as mistreatment of students is a real issue that has been skirted too many times. It does indeed hamper the process of higher learning. There can be no success without the students. This may be dramatic but try to find the strength to log on to the website http://www.uwi.edu/strategicplan2012-2017 and address an issue. You don’t have to do it alone. You can discuss it with your colleagues. Raise an issue or two. Help them to help us. There are no promises and no guarantees and no reason why you should even heed these words  but I sincerely hope that you would anyway.  I am writing this for you as much as I am writing this for me. Another twenty years of strategic planning is not in our best interest. Another five-year cycle does not do us any good. We have things to say so by all means, readers, friends, say them.

This story is also featured on UWICLUBS.com – an online newsletter and database for clubs, societies and associations within UWI.

“Be the change you want to see in the world”

A beautiful quote. It makes you look inward at first. Gandhi was inspirational.

Here’s the part Gandhi didn’t tell us: The world makes it very difficult. At times you feel like you are fighting a lost battle.

The Alma Jordan Library at the University of the West Indies, St Augustine campus, made me feel like the battle was lost this evening. What will it take for some of the staff at the library to treat students properly? What would inspire these people to be more helpful?

I am willing to put my last dollar on my assumption that no one woke up one day and endeavored to work at this library. These people applied for jobs there, whether it be on their own or through “somebody dey know.” Point is, they CHOSE to offer their services here.

This was the scenario tonight.  A friend and I walk into West Indiana. For those of you who are not familiar, it is the section of the library with rare reading material and original documents. It’s on the second floor. Upon reaching the counter, the person behind the desk looks down his nose at me and immediately tells me I am in violation of a rule. A library book was in my hand. Not allowed. I was puzzled because I’ve entered with library books before and it was ok. The person then looks at my friend who had her small purse on her. He said we were in violation of yet another rule. The guard downstairs let us through with the purse because they understand the rules are you cannot bring any bags into the AJL  but your purse is okay because that would have our wallet and other personal items.

Silence.

We explained we wanted to gain access to a book. He explained that we won’t gain access to the book unless we get rid of my library book and her purse.  My friend forgot her alumni card so she needed me there for my ID to see the book. Knowing how important it was for her to gain access to the material I gave it to her and took her bag and my book and exited West Indiana – in keeping with these nonsensical rules.  I couldn’t even make a few steps before she was behind me once again. What now?!  They won’t let her see the book because the ID isn’t hers but mine. At this point I was not even going to explain to them that she forgot her alumni card because that is no longer an issue.

The issue is the lack of professionalism and common sense. There were four people in West Indiana this evening. Discretion should have been used. My friend needed access to a book. I am helping her. She is a past student. I am an undergraduate.

At my matriculation ceremony, students were encouraged to strive for excellence and to make a positive contribution to society. UWI committed itself to helping us achieve its vision for us and by attending the ceremony it was our way of saying we are on board. Years later I think it was all a show. Funny as we all dressed in black and white yet there were so many shades of gray we innocents were not aware of.

You have a university so you put a library for students to use yet you make access to resources so difficult. Where is the “joy of learning” that the Omega Members speak of? How can I experience this joy when the very source of learning material is inaccessible with all these rules?!

Rules ARE necessary to protect this institution AND its students. However rules are not supposed to restrict the learning process. Ever.

The library was renamed the Alma Jordan Library in February of this year. A “Renaming Ceremony” was conducted to make it official. In his opening remarks, this is what campus principal Pro-Vice Chancellor Professor Clement Sankat said:

“Through her leadership, management and efforts, Dr. (Alma) Jordan set the high standards which our library continues to demonstrate today.”

WHAT high standards? In my opinion, this is simply untrue. Dr. Jordan should not want her good name to be associated with this library. If she did in fact work hard to improve the system then her good self should know that there are people destroying the thing she worked so hard to build, and something should be done about it.

There are many other examples of staff ill-treating students. No matter how much I smile upon approaching them for help, I am always met with bored expressions and they make me feel like I am always a bother. Not all staff are this way as I have my favourites I look out for – those who are very helpful and in much need of recognition for their efforts. However, there are those that leave much to be desired.

Sadly the good efforts of a few may be in vain because a few bad apples do spoil the entire bunch.

Professor Clement Sankat’s Opening Remarks at the Renaming Ceremony of the Main Library at UWI, STA

 

University of Aéropostale

Hi. Welcome to the University of Aéropostale.

Huh?

Read on.

Seriously, if you did not know what UWI STA was, by the look of things you would arrive at the conclusion that the name of this institution was Aéropostale. Emblazoned on many a shirt around here, Aéropostale Inc. has really made its mark on the University of the West Indies, St Augustine campus. From the very first day of the semester it was in-your-face obvious that some kind of Aéropostale fetish was born over our four-month-long vacation and somehow made its way back to UWI, STA. The brand existed way before this semester yet I cannot remember a time when both males and females promoted the same brand in unison like this. So what changed? I have not the slightest clue! What’s even more striking than the increased chance of you and someone else wearing the same shirt to class these days, is that campus pride is, for want of a better word, absent. Very rarely you would see someone wearing a T-Shirt with “UWI” on it. Only those UWI Open Campus sixth formers wear them…because they have to. Oh the little people. Moving on.

So the Aéropostale movement is present but where is UWI, STA? Definitely not in our wardrobes. Or maybe it is in our wardrobes but it never sees the sunlight. Whichever one, most of us aren’t proud to wear a shirt that says to the world that we attend the University of the West Indies. And the nagging question is why? The answer to that is a shrug. Students do not think about the missing campus pride. But I do. I used to be proud to flaunt my UWI Tees…in year ONE! Four years later and I don’t miss either one of those poorly made Tees anyway. The University has chewed me up and I am stuck somewhere in its intestine. Constipated much? But this is not a rant about my experiences at UWI, STA. I will leave that entertaining piece for another blog. What was I writing about? Right. Aéropostale.

Yesterday as I embarked on the long and arduous walk to the Priority Bus Route from Rituals, I stopped at the sign that read: “UWI is now pleased to announce Aéropostale as an official sponsor. LOL. Kidding.”

LOL.

I whipped out my Blackberry and snapped a picture. It was to capture the hilariousness as well as the rare moment that I get to see something that was in my head for weeks on Bristol board, scotch-taped to a wall. It really does appear as though this brand is sponsoring us, which brings me to my next point – the shirts are bloody expensive. Local retailers sell Aéropostale shirts for anywhere between TT$150 and TT$300 depending on the style. I know it does not seem like much money compared to the TT$400 and TT$500 we pay for shirts these days but Aéropostale wear is much cheaper on the brand’s website! Significantly! Did you know UWI Tees are available at the UWI, Bookshop for TT$50? That’s one-third the cost of the cheapest Aéropostale shirt! Why, then, not wear the UWI shirts? Sigh. The fact is that Aéropostale, a recognized brand, is actually inexpensive compared to Ed Hardy, D&G and Bebe.

Additionally, maybe the “1987” that is seen on almost all of Aéro’s shirts are a big hit with those born in that year. Which brings me to yet another point: Aéropostale’s target market does not include you, my fellow Aéropostale-wearing UWI students. We are just the additional revenue, the ‘you-can-wear-it-too’ people. Aéropostale Inc principally targets teenagers between the ages of 14 and 17. The average age of a student entering university is 18. But there are smiles on the faces of Aéro peeps because that means their marketing strategy went above and beyond its goal—just like the Blackberry. The current technology staple was just made for business professionals but marketing the Smartphone was so successful that now business professionals and a mass of ordinary joes and janes have the phone. More revenue—you won’t hear them complaining.

Anyway, it looks as though Aéropostale is here to squat for the semester and, quite possibly, the academic year. But, as Heidi Klum would say, “In fashion; one day you’re in, the next day you’re out,” so we wait with not-so-baited breath to see what becomes of this fad and if the trend of UWI campus pride will come on stream at some point in this lifetime.

Image

The makeshift poster scotch-taped to the Faculty of Social Sciences and Humanities and Education building

Hello. Firstly thank you for reading, I promise I’ll be short…ish.

So who am I and what am I doing here?

I’m a student of one of the tertiary-level institutions in Trinidad and Tobago and struggling. At first I thought it was all my fault. I am not studying hard enough. I am not diligent enough. My discipline leaves much to be desired. Maybe I’m not taking my college education seriously. Maybe I am a slacker and a GATE-crasher (the Government of Trinidad and Tobago provides free tertiary education for all citizens through the Government Assistance for Tertiary Education – GATE – programme).

But, no. I figured out that I am not 100% to blame. I am unmotivated to learn. The minute I realised this I asked myself WHY? Of course I came up with several answers and some of them pointed right to the institution I attend. From poor academic advising to boring lectures to rude staff at my faculty office to disenchanted students to ill-equipped security, to an ineffective Guild, to the staff at the library, the problems were endless. So what was I going to do about it, turn the other cheek? No. I choose to fight and inspire—with words—so the up and coming higher education seekers would be more motivated than I ever was.

I want to see tertiary education students in Trinidad and Tobago exude pride in their institution. I long for the day when we could wear our UWI, UTT, COSTATT shirts and jackets and other gear with beaming pride. We tried to change the system and that failed. It’s about time we adopted the way of Gandhi and be the change we want to see. It starts at ground level, so I am striving to change with the perpetual hope that my fellow students, young and not-so-young, will follow suit and help change our campuses because WE HAVE CHANGED. This is all about rediscovering the joy of learning and taking back our pride. It starts now. That’s what this blog is all about.