FOR THE BETTER parts of the 1970’s, 80’s, 90’s and early 2000’s student activism took the center stage of the nation’s body politics where the student community mostly university students at the state-run University of Liberia were actively involved in national politics which in no small way impacted major decision-making processes in the country. They succeeded in speaking the minds of the larger society and influenced decisions favorably towards the causes they stood and fought for.

THOSE WERE ERAS when the failure of the political class and other civil society groups made established incumbencies to wreak havoc on the people and eroded virtually every democratic and governance institutions and arrogated unto themselves the sweeping power to do and undo. The stellar struggle waged by the university students on many occasions saved the state from a lot of misrule tendencies and averted open robbery of the country. That was then.

UNFORTUNATELY, TODAY, STUDENT activism at the University of Liberia has assumed a more radical and militant posture which has produced some irrational activities in recent times. The violent and hooligan attitude has come to be recognized as one of the most visible perennial problems of significance when compared with other social vices associated with university student activities such as cult activities, cases of examination malpractices, and drug abuse and addiction.

IT WILL NOT be an understatement to say that today in history, no generation of student activists has established itself more in terms of frequency and intensity of such violent incidents as the current crop of student activists at the University of Liberia with their militant and radical style of engagement and advocacy.

TO THE DETRIMENT of the respect for constitutional authority and the need to maintain peace and harmony in the country, members of the Student Unification Party (SUP) have arrogated to themselves the sweeping power to declare persona non grata all government officials and perceived allies of the government from entering the campuses of the University.

WHAT PRECIPITATED YESTERDAY’S unfortunate occurrence was the deliberate decision of SUP to deny every government official and person believed to be associated with the government with the vow to perpetually insist that this blanket ban remains enforced as long as SUP exists. The action taken to object to Representative Acarous Moses Gray’s entry to have lunch with the beneficiaries of his scholarship program and to sensitize members of his constituents on the biometric voters’ registration exercise went above the roof to which this flagrant abuse of the fundamental rights to freedom of movement has been perpetrated by SUP. To them, such diabolical move, is an order that signifies the strength and the kind of power they have arrogated to themselves to pass a decree that must be obeyed no matter how mighty the person who is being targeted. That is the height at which their intolerance has reached.

WE ARE NOT in support of any act of the disruption of normal academic activities yesterday but we doubt there was any way the students would have gotten the message that what they have been doing was not an exercise of their “RIGHT” but a clear violation of the very freedom the same SUP “militants” tend to espouse.

BEFORE YESTERDAY’S INCIDENCE, four occurrences had taken place on the campus UL where the students did not mince words to carry out their action. On the first occasion, the students ran out the former Minister of State for Presidential Affairs, Mr. Nathaniel Farlo McGill and Minister of Finance and Development Planning Samuel D. Tweah Jr when the duo had gone on the UL campus to inspect the renovation and beautification works being carried out through funding from the government.

DURING THE SECOND unruly action of the students, they embarrassed the Vice President Mrs. Jewel Howard-Taylor by causing her to vacate the campus under threat immediately after she had launched the degree program in Fishery and Aquaculture Studies as well as other members of her entourage mainly government officials.

FOR THE THIRD time, they compelled a former Solicitor General and Chief Prosecutor of Liberia, Cllr. Saymah Syrenius Cephas to flee the campus upon sighting him in his car.

THE LAST INSTANCE was when the students surrounded Aloysius Howe, a staff in the office of Minister Tweah, marched him up to his parked car and forced him to drive out of the campus with some of the students even poised to pounce on him while he was hurried out of the campus.

ON ALL THESE occasions, the students were shouting and chanting anti-government slogans and hurling insults on all those government officials including VP Taylor and vowing to even cause havoc on any other government officials and their allies spotted on the campus of the University.

THESE ACTS ARE clear demonstration of hooliganism and violence with huge potential to derail the peace and harmony the country has been enjoying thus far. It is high time that actions be taken to avert future occurrences so as to restore the enabling academic life on the campuses of the university.

IT IS IN this vein that we commend the administration thus far for taking some measures such as the indefinite suspension of the main ring leader who launched the attack on Aloysius Howe, and for promising to bring to book the other students who were involved in the shameful act.

WE URGE THE administration not to rest on its oar but decisively deal with the students and their new found vocation to persistently attack government officials and their allies anytime they are sighted carrying on legitimate businesses on the campus.

THE ACTS OF these students run counter purpose to the reason why the university was established which include but not limited to giving any student who enrolls, a very sound and qualitative education, to be able to function effectively in any environment in which he/she may find him/herself; so as to become more productive, self-fulfilling and attain self-actualization.

THE NEED FOR the administration to take a more proactive stand on these acts of violence by these students is more relevant right now against the background of the intervention by the government to provide the enabling environment for an affordable and quality education through the tuition free scheme and other measures never witnessed before in the history of the institution.

OF COURSE, NOT every student there is in favor of this distraction to the academic life on campus. Majority are eager to learn and graduate on time so as to get in the larger community to begin contributing their respective quota to the nation building process. They are also eager to work and pay back all the costs incurred by their poor parents who are making all the sacrifices for their children and wards to obtain education for their better tomorrow.

WHAT HAPPENED YESTERDAY was a complete disappointment and discretion of academia. There is a clear-cut demarcation between a serene academic setting and a society of thuggery and violence as has been taking place on the campus of the university. Over time the country has had its own fair share of activism but not to the level where these obvious ragtag rascals are dragging the institution.

AND THIS IS where we want to emphatically urge the administration to summon the courage and will power to demonstrate leadership. There is nowhere in the world where students set standards and criteria to determine who visits their campus or not, especially a public institution whose operation is being financed from taxpayers’ money.

THE STUDENTS MUST be reminded that besides the acquisition of knowledge for which they are primarily there, it is incumbent upon the institution to instill in them the sense of civility,  patriotism and character building which are necessary ingredients to nation building. The students thus are compelled to accept them as part and parcel of their upbringing within the confines of the university.

IT IS A task before the administration to save the University of Liberia from degenerating to the stage of being a garbage that only filths take domicile. The creeping violent and hooligan behavior is fast taking toil on the quality of the product of the university which is becoming a monumental failure on the part of the university to be the provider of quality human capital for the overall national development goal of the country.

UL SHOULD NOT be a militant base; it should not be a place of violence and hooliganism; but the center for refinement that must be taken seriously in line with its motto: LUX EN TENEBRIS or LIGHT IN DARKNESS.

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