POLITICAL SITUATIONS: AFTER RODNEY :- THE POLITICS OF STUDENT PROTEST IN JAMAICA

Any victory won by such dishonest means, however, contains within itself the seeds of its own ultimate defeat.

For if some people have a different version of the story, and find the courage and the means to articulate it to the public, an area of doubt is left in the public mind. Had the student body heard the broadcast as individuals, scattered and dispersed in their various rooms and homes, the demoralisation might have been total. As it was, they heard the broadcast assembled by their hundreds in Mary Seaeole Hall, encouraged by the strength of numbers and by a feeling of having been wronged. The Prime Minister’s speech drew the student body and some of the staff together in a more coherent whole: they could not realistically fight for the return of Rodney, but they could legitimately demand that the truth be told. A reply to the Prime Minister’s speech was drawn up and unanimously approved. Contributions by some members of the staff, moreover, related the whole affair to the underlying political and economic structure in Jamaica and the Caribbean: what had been bewildering began to become understandable. A new mood of solidarity began to emerge, and the question of a return to classes was not entertained.

What then began to become apparent was the failure of the formal University leadership to respond to the rapidly changing situation, both on and off the campus.

When the news media, late on Thursday, began to close ranks against the University attempts to reply to the Government, no alternative means of communication was quickly found. In addition, neither the Administration nor the student leadership recognised the inherent value of the entire student body thinking and acting together in assembly. That this would give the University action the purpose, the resources and the moral force needed to make it effective was not evident to people trained in the habits of decision-making by committee. While meetings of the Academic Board, the West Indies Group of University Teachers, the Students Guild Council, and the staff-student policy committee were taking place, the mass of the students and staff hardly knew what was going on.

It was therefore left to independent initiatives to break the communications barrier within the University community and to keep the students acting together. On Friday, the first copies of unofficial “Scope” began to appear and were quickly snapped up on the campus and in various parts of the island. Mimeographed “Free University Bulletins” also began to come out. In the late afternoon, another well attended meeting in Seacole approved the proposal that the time during which formal lectures and classes were suspended should be spent discussing the issues which had been raised by the Rodney affair and in setting up machinery to inform the public.