The President of the University of Liberia (UL) along with members of his cabinet, has hosted student leaders at dinner and entertained friendly but frank discussions on a wide range of issues for the forward match of the university.
President Nelson hosted the fellowship dinner to solicit from the students what are some of the things they want the University Administration to deal with so that their work together in 2023 will be under a smooth atmosphere.
The dinner was held Friday night, January 6, 2023, at the Boulevard Palace in Sinkor, Monrovia, and it was graced by student leaders from the undergraduate, professional, and medical schools.
He indicated that this year, the University Administration has decided to invest in students’ lives, noting that though they will disagree from time to time, it does not stop them from being partners.
“The only thing I am asking all of us is that come what may, there’s always a forum that we can discuss to find the common ground and find the solutions to all the issues that we have as students and administrators at the University of Liberia,” said Dr. Nelson.
Before the dinner, President Nelson over the Christmas holiday held meetings with the University of Liberia Faculty Association (ULFA) president Prof. Dr. Edna Johnny; the University of Liberia Staff Association (ULSA) president Mr. Lawrence F. Seiftuah; and Mr. Varfee Dukuly, president of the student interim leadership, to reflect where the nation’s premier university has come.
President Nelson said it is from the interactions he had with the three constituencies of the University that led to the holding of the fellowship dinner.
He particularly congratulated Mr. Varfee Dukuly for the idea that the University Administration needed to find time to interact with the different leaders of the student organizations to reflect on their journey together.
In his remarks at the dinner, President Nelson informed the gathering that he hoped that the second semester for Academic Year 2022 will conclude in March 2023, to be followed by the University’s 103rd convocation between April 17 and April 29, 2023.
Around May this year, he said, it is hoped that the next Academic Year 2022/2023 can start to conclude the first semester before the presidential and legislative elections are held.
He promised to remind the Office of Enrollment Services, and the Office of Information Technology to open the e-portal system so that students can register, with the understanding that they will make 50 percent payment of their registration fees before mid-term, and complete registration before the final exam as was agreed last year.
President Nelson said it has been discussed to do a special invitation to the outgoing secretary of the Regional University Forum (RUFORUM) for Capacity Building in Agriculture, and some stakeholders.
He said RUFORUM has given 27 slots to the University of Liberia to train faculty for Ph.D. and Master’s programs to upgrade the faculty profile.
Also, President Nelson disclosed that discussions have begun for a partnership with the University of South Africa following a recent trip to South Africa by Liberia’s Vice President Madam Jewel Howard-Taylor, accompanied by UL Vice President for Graduate Studies, Dr. Jonathan Taylor.
“And we are about to sign that new agreement with the University of South Africa,” said President Nelson.
Addressing different concerns raised by students at the dinner, Dr. Nelson explained that the University Administration did not put a stop to the conduct of popular elections for students, but a referendum must be held for the University of Liberia Student Union (ULSU) Constitution.
According to him, the ULSU Constitution was suspended by the University Council because it contained issues that were contravening the revised student handbook.
Regarding rumors that the UL Administration would construct classrooms at Muslim students’ prayer site, President Nelson said he has decided with the University leadership that classrooms will not be constructed at the site.
Regarding the Muslim students’ office, Dr. Nelson said the University is relocating the office to another place because where the Muslim students occupy as an office has been assessed and found to be ideal to open the School of Nursing and Midwifery to offer a Bachelor’s degree program.
Further, President Nelson announced that between now and the end of January 2023, an office specifically for students with disabilities will be set up and attached to the Office of the President to give him direct information on issues relating to disabled students.
He said the team that is working on the office will meet with the leadership of students that are physically challenged and have disabilities
Additionally, President Nelson said pretty soon discussions will be held with the Office of Students Affairs to revive the President-Students Advisory Council so that meetings can be held frequently on the campus to look at the different issues raised.
President Nelson disclosed that he has informed members of his cabinet that he will be intentional about making sure that the University of Liberia finds a minibus for the student government of the University.
“We want to ensure that we can do that on or before the 103rd graduation so that we can achieve that goal together as a major effort as we work together,” he noted.
At the dinner, representatives of various student groups made their points across the floor during the dinner.
Varfee Dukuly, president of the interim student government, thanked President Nelson and his cabinet for the dinner.
He noted that UL is a political hub, and the country is in its election year, adding that it’s obvious that there will be a lot of tension.
As such, he suggested that student leaders and UL Administration should sit at a round table to discuss how to manage the campus for a successful election year.
He pleaded with the University Administration to consider Monday, January 9, 2023, as the date of the opening of school because they did not see much happening during the previous week.
Student Dukuly urged the University Administration to improve the school’s library, and laboratories and be practical in providing knowledge.
Student Patricia Gray, president of the Liberia Medical Students Association (LMSA), thanked the University Administration for the forum, saying it is very cardinal in helping to address issues at the University.
“If we will always have these opportunities to come to the table and discuss issues like this, I don’t think our colleagues will always want to get under the tree; I don’t think our colleagues will always want to raise the placards,” said Student Gray.
Giving an example, she said every last Friday of the month, students at the Medical School have regular meetings with the administration to discuss issues.
The president of the Law Students Association (LAWSA), at the Loui Arthur Grimes School of Liberia, University of Liberia Williamina G.E. Buddy, said it’s left with student leaders and individuals to see a reason to prop up their leaders, especially the president of the University.
“What are we doing as student leaders? We post the question to ourselves, what have we done for the University?” she continued.
She added while it is incumbent upon the University to provide all the social services, it is also incumbent upon student leaders to try their best to give their own.
She noted that it’s not every student at the Louis Arthur Grimes School of Law is working, but they are trying to make their way by reaching out to friends to bridge the gap and they have been moving forward with projects, using their resources.
Siaffa Bahn Kemokai, president of the Federation of African Law Students (FALAS), said issues raised at the dinner are not unique to the University of Liberia.
Using Uganda as an example, he said during his visit in March last year, students had issues, but what he admired about them was that their issues are always idea-driven.
He said they sit and debate issues to find solutions. He encouraged students at the University of Liberia to always seek to bargain when they face certain issues.