In this episode, we shall be discussing other instances of conflict resolution involving the student union and the institution management. Before going into the particular instances, it is important that we deal with the issues that are likely to give rise to conflict situations between the student union and the management of tertiary institutions. Such issues include, but not limited to the following;
1. Review of fees payable by the students:
This is the most common cause of conflict or crisis between the student union and management of tertiary institutions. In fact, 65% of conflicts between the management of tertiary institutions and their student unions arise from this issue of review of fees payable by the students, whether tuition fees or other fees like hostel fees etc. Usually, when management sees a need to review fees payable by the students, which are often intended to ensure maximum service delivery and in order to ensure that the management is able to take care of the overhead costs of running the administration of the institution. However, the problem usually arose from the mode of communication or introduction of such review in the fees. Most managements, simply come out with the announcement of the reviewed fees, without engaging the students through their representatives, the student union government, and when this happens, the student union leaders sees it as a slight on them and decide to show that they care about the interest and welfare of the students by rejecting the fees review through protests and peaceful demonstrations that most times turn into violent protests, especially when the police is brought-in by the management to neutralize the protesters, this may lead to injuries or even loss of lives. But in a situation where the institution management engages the student union leaders in discussions before a review in fees, the protests are completely avoided, as there won’t be any need for protest. This approach may waste time as the discussions do not end in one sitting, but it has proved to be the best approach for the introduction of any reviews in fees payable by the students. A typical example is the school fees review in November 2019 by the management of Nnamdi Azikiwe University, under the administration of Prof. Charles Esimone. The Vice-Chancellor first set up a committee headed by the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Administration), and comprised of other stakeholders including ASUU, NASU and the students themselves. The committee also had further engagement with the students via town hall meetings that involved faculty and departmental executives, hostel and town union Presidents and all Class Reps in the institution, and the resolutions reached was accepted by all, approved by the Senate of the University, and there was no post-review crisis or protests.
2. Introduction of new Policies by the management:
Whenever the management of a tertiary institution intends to introduce a new policy or review an old policy with a view to improve the lots of the institution and by extension her products, the students, it is important that the new policies should be discussed and well understood by all stakeholders before the policy is introduced. When the management of the university, in line with the university autonomy bill, decides to review the university policy on sabbatical leave, it is in the best interest of the management to discuss the proposed review with the leadership of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) for that institution to ensure that the purpose of the review is understood by the academic staff for all intents and purposes. Any attempt to foist the review on the academic staff, no matter the intent, without first discussing it will create room for suspicion, and may ultimately lead to crisis in the university.
3. Management interference in student union elections:
Whenever the management of a tertiary institution shows an overt interest in who emerges as leaders of the student union during student union elections, the result is always catastrophic as the students tend to take their fate and destinies in their own hands by resisting such impositions by the institution’s management, and the result is usually not palatable. It is usually in the best interest of the management of tertiary institutions not to interfere in the affairs of the student union especially in the aspect of having a preferred candidate, but rather allow the students to elect their leaders, thenthey (management) will work with the leaders elected by the students.
4. Delay in resolving students’ complaints on service delivery:
When students make complaints regarding the delivery of such service as electricity supply in the hostels, water supply and reticulation in the hostels, it is expected that the complaints should be treated with dispatch to ensure normalcy, but most times, the complaints are not usually attended to in line with the urgency it requires, hence an accumulation of effects of the failure in such service may lead to a crisis. For instance, when the power outage leads to poor or no water supply in the hostel, this may lead to crisis in the hostel, and eventually in the institution.
5. Complaints about the handling of students’ fund:
In most tertiary institutions, the student union funds are being administered by the management, through the Dean of Student Affairs, and the release of funds approved by the Legislative arm of the Student Union Government, the Student Representative Council (SRC) are sometimes delayed by the office of the Dean of Student Affairs, sometimes unintentionally, but as a result of normal official bureaucracy, to the extent that the programmes or events for which such approvals were meant may even come and go without the funds being made released. Sometimes, the student union claims that their funds are been applied by the management for other things other than the business or activities of the student union. It is recommended that the student union funds be applied strictly for student union matters.
In resolving conflicts arising from any of the issues mentioned above, it is important to apply the strategies of conflict resolution already discussed in the volume 1 of this subject.
Comrade Igwe Patrick Afubera writes from Abuja.