Sun | Nov 17, 2019

CMU CUTS FEES - Reduction news coincides with president’s arrest in education ministry’s corruption probe

Published:Tuesday | October 15, 2019 | 12:17 AMAndre Williams/Staff Reporter
An aerial view of the Palisadoes-based Caribbean Maritime University.
An aerial view of the Palisadoes-based Caribbean Maritime University.

Students at Caribbean Maritime University (CMU) have welcomed news of a reduction in tuition fees across all faculties mere hours after the arrest of the president of the institution, Professor Fritz Pinnock, along with four other persons, in a corruption probe last Wednesday.

While applauding the move to slash the fees, students and parents with whom The Gleaner spoke admitted to raising their eyebrows at the timing, with the information coming just after the CMU president was taken into custody along with its legal adviser, Sharen Reid; her husband, former Education Minister Ruel Reid; their daughter, Sharelle Reid; and Brown’s Town Councillor Kim Brown Lawrence.

The five were detained in coordinated predawn operations at their homes in St Andrew, St Catherine, and St Ann last Wednesday and booked on charges including for breaches of the Corruption Prevention Act, conspiracy to defraud, misconduct in a public office at common law and breaches of the Proceeds of Crime Act.

But as the authorities were conducting the raids, the CMU’s Students’ Union, which had been lobbying for a reduction in fees for months, was also gearing up to share news of their successful negotiations with the 4,000-plus student body.

““Your students’ union body is pleased to advise that there has been a six per cent reduction in the tuition fees across all faculties. This consensus was arrived at subsequent to a meeting that was held with the university’s management. The necessary adjustments have been made and students are advised to proceed with their payments,” a section of the advisory it sent out read.

“I am not exaggerating. Exactly an hour after the news began swirling around campus, they hit us with that memo,” a first-year student told our news team. “All fees dropped by six per cent across all faculties. Some students were happy and others were sceptic and delayed their excitement until it was clear why the news was handed down on the day of the arrests.”

CMU Students’ Union President Glenardo Simpson yesterday told our news team that the timing was coincidental.

“It should have been sent out long time, but there were some PR (public-relations) issues. A lot of students have come [forward] and asked this question. The negotiations started in the summer when the proposed figures were sent out,” he told The Gleaner.

He could not recall the exact date that the university acknowledged that the proposed fees would be reduced.

“There was a proposed increase of up to 10.6 per cent and 12 per cent, respectively, over certain faculties. Based on the negotiations of the students’ union, there was only an increase of six per cent across all faculties and so the tuition is reduced,” Simpson said.

“With the allegations surrounding the misuse of the CMU funds by the parties that have been arrested, I, too, wanted to know why wait ’til the arrest before this great news was made public,” one parent told The Gleaner. “My daughter called me immediately when the news broke. ... I welcome the reduced tuition, though I heard we are not getting money back; the difference will be brought forward. If you ask me, the fees should not have increased this summer following the series of events prior.”

When asked, Simpson declined to comment on the impact of the corruption probe on student morale.

The five accused were granted bail last Thursday when they appeared in the Corporate Area Parish Court.

They are to return to court on January 23, 2020.

andre.williams@gleanerjm.com