The National Student Union of Belize (NSUB) has announced that they are in full support of the University of Belize Faculty and Staff Union (UBSFU) in postponing the date for classes to resume. According to the union, a survey was conducted among their membership including faculty and students. The results of the survey showed that the majority of the union members are of the opinion that the University of Belize is not prepared to begin administering online classes. President of the NSUB, Kevin Chen outlined three major factors that contributed to the opinions in the survey.
Kevin Chen, President of the National Student Union of Belize: “The concerns that UBFSU has raised with respect to the preparedness of the university to administer online classes and with respect to the preparedness of lecturers themselves are valid concerns. This is also the position of our members who currently attend the University of Belize. Our union had issued a members referendum to gather their standpoint and many of these students also raised concerns about the capabilities of the online infrastructure at UB, students aren’t confident in it. Just yesterday we saw how the Moodle platform crashed on what was only the first day of school at UB. Additionally we believe that lecturers themselves are not prepared. From what we’ve gathered with our meetings with UBFSU they have told us that the university sent the lecturers their course about two to three days prior to the resumption of classes. We don’t believe that is sufficient time for teachers who would want to revisit their course outlines and try to readjust it in some way to suit the new methods of delivering classes. Another issue that students have raised to us, our students who go to UB have raised to us then was the issue that the university is still charging students which in our opinion have become obsolete due to the new normal of delivering classes. Students are still being charged for fees such as library fee, computer lab fees and student activity fees and from what I’ve heard with other students they’re even being charged for ID fees but we believe that this is unfair and that’s why we’re calling on the university to immediately revisit and recalculate these fees and scrap them entirely and if they can’t scrap them entirely well to reduce them to a minimum because we understand that the university might still need to charge some of these fees in order to maintain their daily operations, so we’re calling for the fees to either be scrapped entirely or to be reduced to its minimum.”
As for the three-page letter from the Chairman of the University of Belize, President Chen says that despite the points made in the letter the Board should also take into consideration the important role the faculty plays at the institution.
Kevin Chen, President of the National Student Union of Belize: “With respect to the statement made by the UB Chairman yesterday I think that a lot of students were shocked and they were alarmed at those statements. We at the NSUB do believe that the chairman was being iniquitous with those remarks I mean UBFSU comprises of over fifty percent of the entire faculty and staff at UB how can you fire over fifty percent of your entire staff just at the beginning of the entire semester? That is just outrageous to us and even if the university were to have their way and fire all those staff I don’t think that the university could have recruited all that number of teachers and faculty members to continue with the semester. This entire issue does affect students, we are the ones who are caught in the middle of this entire firestorm between the two parties but if UB has their way we will be receiving a lower quality of education because lecturers themselves won’t be prepared and the online infrastructure at UB is simply not ready and it is nowhere near accommodating to the number of students that have signed up for online classes at UB for this semester. So we are the ones caught in the middle of this entire storm.”
As we wrap up this story, it is still uncertain when classes will resume online or when the Moodle Online Platform will be fixed or if the two parties have reached an agreement. It is a developing story that we will keep following.