Bisnauth slams loose use of academic freedom at UG event

Stabroek News
June 14, 2000

Minister of Education, Dr Dale Bisnauth has criticised the loose use of the words 'academic freedom', in a recent fund-raising pursuit by a section of the University of Guyana (UG).

The minister, in an invited comment told the Guyana Information Services (GIS): "By academic freedom I understand it is the freedom of people to pursue education, including university education for their intellectual growth and attainment."

The minister's comments came on the heels of numerous letters to the editor in both the Stabroek News and Chronicle where persons criticised the actions of the organisers and the principle of selling tickets to obtain better grades.

The minister continued, "I believe that education is extremely important for personalised development, I believe the university should be free of political constraints and should be free to pursue research and education in search of knowledge."

Bisnauth said the event at UG might have been dubbed 'Academic Freedom' but had no relationship to what he had described.

The event was said to be a sociology of enterprise project undertaken by students of the SOC 120: Introduction to Sociological Theory Class of 2000.

The objectives of the event, said to be a tutorial assignment were development of entrepreneurial skills, provision of a public service for private good, availing students the opportunity of planning and managing a short-term, multi-million dollar enterprise, encouraging them to regard wealth as a positive value and marrying theoretical orientations with practical pursuits. The enterprise also allowed students to earn while they learnt with half of the proceeds going to them while the other half went to the university.

At a recent presentation ceremony four computers with accessories were given to departments at the institution, while video equipment was also received by a department. This apart, various homes and charitable organisations were recipients of donations.

Many persons had complained that students were given tickets to sell which would determine their grades. However, this was disputed by members of the organising committee, who told Stabroek News that students were given the option of writing a long paper or selling tickets. Only three persons were said to have opted for the first. The officials also stated that marks were not only awarded for ticket sales, but for active participation in various activities on the day.

Bisnauth was also critical of some of the advertisements shown on television. He said that on viewing them he could not help but wonder whether that was the best way to advertise the activity or the university. He stated that society expected a certain standard from people some of whom in a few years due to their qualifications will probably hold important positions in the country.

The day's activities included go-go dancing, stunts, Indian belly dancing, renditions of songs, African and Latin dances, stand-up comedy, and music from live bands and sound systems. The programme, held on Easter Monday, was said to have been aimed at taking the public to the university and vice-versa in a summary by Professor Ken Danns.

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