By Latrishka Thomas
In a year plagued by challenges brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic, the University of the West Indies Five Islands Campus has persevered, the president of the Guild of Students said.
Caleb Gardiner described his first year as the official leader of the student body, as of March 2020, as one that required “growth, adaptation and resilience”.
During that period, Gardiner and his council were able to complete about 98 percent of their plans for the year.
The 21-year-old said that as the first ever student union it was their mission to create a solid foundation for the students as well as future Guild councils.
He shared that one of the biggest accomplishments was the creation of a Guild website which came out of the vision of the Guild’sPublications Committee Chairperson (PCC) Chaneil Imhoff.
Also, the creation of clubs and societies which “came from the office of the Vice President, Mr Ezekiel Francois, as we saw the need to ensure that each student has an avenue to have fun, to be engaged and by establishing different clubs and societies it targets the different niche or likes of the students,” Gardiner continued.
Furthermore, the council was able to create a campus mascot and campus house emblems “to provide a sense of university spirit”.
“I recommended and presented a proposal to [adapt] the frigate bird as our campus mascot. This was done and it was approved,” he revealed.
The university’s houses are called Stingrays, Hawksbills, and Starfish.
The creation of Five Islands campus branded T-shirts is also in the pipeline, and Gardiner said that proceeds from selling them “will fund a Guild scholarship for students who are in need and cannot afford to pay their tuition”.
And before Gardiner and his team leave office on June 1, they are determined to complete two major projects.
One is to finalise the institution of an academic awards programme where students with a GPA over 3.5 will receive a Director of Academic Affairs award, while the person which the highest GPA across all schools, at each level, will receive the principal’s award.
“This programme is catered to ensuring that students are rewarded for their academic success…so students are motivated to always aim for higher heights,” Gardiner explained, noting that the plan is to announce the awardees during the university’s annual matriculation ceremony.
The final thing on the council’s docket is the establishment of health insurance for each student.
“As president, I saw the need that the student’s health and wellbeing is taken into consideration, so it is imperative that each student has health insurance. It is done on other campuses and it would be remiss of me to not ensure that Five Islands Campus has health insurance for each student,” Gardiner said.
He said that they are presently exploring different insurance companies to find the best rates for students to cover general health as well as vision.
“The main deciding factor will be the cost because many students aren’t working. They would at some point have to pay these rates, so we are assessing our options to find the cheapest yet most comprehensive plan,” he stated.
Meanwhile, although the year was filled was unprecedented success, the student body of about 300 persons was also overwhelmed, Gardiner explained.
“The Covid-19 pandemic came and altered the way the Guild Council would have operated and affected the activities that we would have originally planned because majority, if not all, were in-person activities. Nevertheless, we had to be innovative and create online activities to ensure that the students feel as though they are in university.
“The biggest challenge we faced was getting students involved. Many students had a hard time adapting to the online environment and many persons wanted to escape from home because as you know going on campus was a way to relieve the stress you have at home…being restricted from doing so definitely had an emotional impact on the students,” the third year management student shared.
But the student Guild endeavoured to remedy some of those issues with a stress management webinar, online games night and other engaging activities.
On March 25, the students will elect a new executive to carry them through from June 1, 2021 to 2022.