Two University of the West Indies (UWI) students have taken the Cave Hill campus to task for its decision to evict them from the Halls of Residence ahead of the upcoming academic year.
In letters dated August 17, Kerri-Ann Thomas, 28, and Uriah Smith, 27, were informed they would have to find alternative off-campus housing either on or before August 26.
Campus officials have since granted a brief extension on the inevitable eviction date, but maintain that continuing residents are in no way entitled to an indefinite stay on the property.
According to the letters from Halls Administrator, Diana Bryan, the students’ request to continue living at the Frank Worrell Hall was unsuccessful because of restrictions on the number of people allowed to reside there.
The students were then advised to either place their names on a waiting list or seek off-campus accommodations from a catalogue of landlords that have been vetted by the university.
But Thomas, a Dominican student who has been staying on the halls for seven years, complained that the real bone of contention arose when the students were asked to vacate the premises with all of their belongings on or before August 26.
“This is a deviation from the norm. Ten days is not enough time for somebody, especially a regional student, to find a place and get the finances in order, especially because in many cases, our parents are supporting us,” Thomas told Barbados TODAY.
The third-year Chemistry student acknowledged that the thought of having to find a security deposit, the first month’s rent and cover other expenses is particularly daunting, given that a more manageable payment plan is extended to students under the Halls’ arrangement.
“It has been very stressful and scary,” she said. “I have never had to move per se. I probably should have done that earlier throughout my degree, but now at such a short time it is very scary and very uncomfortable and I have accumulated a lot of stuff in my dorm room, so I now have to make sure that I pack everything and see what has to be thrown away.”
Smith, a Barbadian, described the Frank Worrell Hall as his refuge for the last two years as he struggled to continue his studies in Economics and Law with no place to stay.
Without the cushion of the Halls’ payment plan, he fears he may have to go on the streets.
“We aren’t all just little rich kids,” Smith told Barbados TODAY. “We are trying to get our lives in further places, we are trying to put things together and figure out life in general. Be a little more considerate, don’t just toss us out with no explanation. At least have a conversation, have a meeting, make a call, it’s not that hard.
“How do you find a house and a security deposit and register and pay for school all practically next week? All of those things have been piled onto us, and there’s COVID, and you could hardly get anything done and you gave us 10 days to pack up and leave. I think that is ridiculous.”
When contacted, UWI Communications Specialist Chelston Lovell revealed that the students had missed the deadline for applications for an extension and, as a result, their spaces were otherwise allocated. Nevertheless, Lovell added that university officials were willing to grant the students an extension until mid-September.
“There is a reduction in the Hall capacity primarily because of the COVID-19 restrictions,” the spokesman said. “We want to remove the previous levels of density and persons having to share accommodations and facilities.
“It is not a place of indefinite stay, and priority for occupying the Halls is given to persons coming onto campus for the first time, particularly from abroad. Other applications are dealt with on a case-by-case basis and a decision is made. This is the case with practically everything that is shared across the island as you would know. Everything from feteing to going to church, people have been asked to reduce the numbers gathering in congregate settings.”
Campus officials have revealed that The UWI is embarking on a “hybrid” system of learning for the upcoming academic year that combines virtual and in-person learning. They anticipate an increase in the number of non-Barbadian students as a result.