It has been a while since I last updated my ‘Conflict Of Interest’ series, but this story is quite interesting. I remember some time ago I wrote a blog about my experiences invigilating exams at UWI. I started invigilating again and just this week a theology student, a minster of religion was caught red-handed cheating in her examination. She had a paper of notes neatly hidden behind her ‘minister of religion’ identification card. Caught in the act of cheating she couldn’t deny it.
Fortunately for her grace was granted and she was at least allowed to complete her examination. Cheating is not a rare occurrence in examinations, but this one got a lot of attention because invigilators usually do not critically watch theology students as cheating is not expected from ministers in training. It is interesting to note though that subsequent to that event, all theology students are keenly watched during examinations.
At the end of the exam, the lecturer for the course was summoned and was making inquiries of her cheating student. The examiner asked ‘Do you think Jesus would d such a thing?’ and the shocking reply from the student, who appeared to be in her late 50s ‘I don’t think God would want me to fail’.
Should we be critical of her simply because she is a theology student? We certainly do not make such a big deal of other cheating students. Med students cheat very frequently and they are being trained to saving lives. Should we forgive and forget and allow her to cheat 70 times 7? The criticisms are based on the expectations of a minister, can we trust her lead her church by example? Could it be she was the victim of possession and the devil made her do it?
I am in no way qualified to throw any stones, but this certainly is a conflict of interest.
Many times I have heard the question; ‘Can a man and a woman be friends?’ I have always defended firmly that it is possible based on my associations with women. However, over the years, my thoughts have evolved. Here is why:
During my undergrad years at the University of the West Indies, I contently interacted with many young ladies, enjoying the incredible 7:3 female to male ratio with no complaints at all. I became very good friends with one particular female. We spent a lot of time together studying, chilling at each others place of residence and had constant telephone conversations. We were NOT together. For years we enjoyed a clean friendship though she was an attractive girl and I was, well, you know, me. We comforted each other as we entered and ended relationships but never did we venture outside the ‘friend-zone’. We were just about ready to graduate from University and we were both single for at least a year. I was by her place just giving her a quick visit as was the norm but when I was leaving I gave her a hug. This was however no ordinary hug, it lasted much longer than the standard 1 to 2 seconds. I felt something, it was so intense that a hug led to a passionate kiss. I left thinking how much sense it made to have a relationship with this girl.
There was a second encounter. She came to visit me after I had started my graduate program and we had a chat. Before you knew it we were involved in some intense petting . To date we haven’t said a word about it, I am just thankful it didn’t go too far. We are simply trying to maintain a friendship and nothing more because the friendship is something we both treasure.
It happened again…
I met another girl at church and we simply mixed like 2 organic solvents. We had deep conversations and she quickly became my go to person if I needed a good debate. It may be important to mention that the mirror on the wall confirmed that she is one of the fairest of them all. We both started and ended relationships during the course of our long friendship and we could always talk to each other about anything. But again, she was just a friend. One night she visited me and as usual we talked but the devil finds use for idle hands and I don’t know how it happened, but again I found myself scratching the kitty . It went no further and to date nothing was mentioned in relation to the itch.
It really would be logical to date one of these women given that they possess the very features I prefer. But I like our friendship too much to jeopardize it with a relationship. I just know deep down, we have a strange friendship. But this had me thinking, and I realized that many women I considered to be friends, didn’t want just a friendship and this solidified my evolving thought.
So to answer the very old question I will make it very specific:
Can a single, attractive, heterosexual Jamaican man and a single, attractive heterosexual Jamaican woman be friends and just friends?
If you are a woman and you are friends with a man, you are either not single, not attractive or not heterosexual.
The Mphil/PhD programs at the University of the West Indies are research based programs which demand a lot of time and resources. Tuition is usually covered in exchange for work done at the associated departments. This work includes tutoring or demonstrating laboratory exercises. Candidates are usually offered a stipend paid in quarterly installments. On paper the grass seems very green and the program is expected to run smoothly but of course this seldom, if ever occurs.
Where it regards payments of stipend, in my experience, it is always late, even up to two months late. While this is inconvenient that is not my primary issue with the program and I am very grateful for the opportunity to research, publish and expose the University to the competitive international world of education.
Provided that the programs are research based, it is not possible to define specifically when one will be finished. Mphil students are given up to three years to complete the program after which they can upgrade to the PhD program or graduate with an Mphil degree. It is possible, if the resources are available, to complete long before the given period, but more often than not, based on my observations, that is not the case. There are occasionally very successful students who are able to complete the program within the proposed time frame for example Peter Nelson, who graduated last year with a PhD in Chemistry at age twenty-five.
The research projects may be funded by independent sponsors, the program supervisor who may have enough resources, or the Office of Graduate Studies and Research. I completed the Mphil program long before the proposed time frame, partially because I had to fund aspects of the study myself. I upgraded to the PhD program and received a grant from the Office of Graduate Studies and Research. In order to access the funds, one has to make request by filling out a purchase requisition form, have it signed by the head of department and attaching proof of grant received (usually a letter which states the details of the grant) along with pro forma invoices for the items requested. This is then sent to the bursary there the ‘Purchases’ section generates a purchase order. A cheque is sent to the company selling the item, who will then ship it to the department. The process seems very simple and one would expect to receive the items needed in just a few days. Right?… Wrong! What seems to be a simple process, quite often takes months and even years (I know of an incident where a student waited two years to receive an item!). If the item needed is critical for research, you may end up wasting months of your life just waiting, and there is nothing you can do about it.
If you are in the program for too long then the University with send letters to you, kindly asking you to leave, it doesn’t matter that they may be the reason for the delays, you just need to get out!
My personal experience
If you think of all the worst cases, chances are, I have experienced it. But I will just share my most recent case. I noticed over the years that most companies are reluctant to do business with the University, I now know the reason. They also require prepayments even if a purchase order is generated. For my clinical research project I collect blood samples and do amazing sciency stuff with it. The samples need to be stored in a freezer until they are tested. After years of storing my samples on borrowed freezers it has become necessary to move the samples to my lab. I received a grant from the Office of Graduate Studies and Research which I used to order a freezer from Courts Jamaica Ltd. I assumed this would be an easy transaction given that it is not an international order and the University has done business with Courts many times before. The first problem I encountered was Courts refusal to deliver the freezer. They claimed that UWI owes them money and until funds are transferred, no delivery will be made. I contacted purchases and they gave a date when the payments will be made, after that date I did a routine follow up and confirmation was given that payment had been made. I checked with courts who denied this claim. After a back and forth battle I was asked to request the order again and a cheque will be prepared! Obviously UWI – PURCHASES department lied to me. I did as was told, and still no delivery has been made. If the transaction is not complete within a week I will purchase the item myself and request a refund (it may take up to a year for me to be refunded). That was one of the things I had to do to complete the Mphil project on time.
This happens too often for it to be an error. If there are any concerns with an order no one will call you to correct it. You have to make it you duty to follow up and often times stand over persons to ensure they do their jobs!
In order for the University to be a first class institution, international publications are needed. It is important that they make available significant funds to assist with research so more quality publications can be made.
They should never lie to students! If the funds are not available, just say so.
Notify individuals of issues relating to a transaction.
Pay the business /companies for items delivered. They would be more inclined to do business with the University.
Expedite the process from requisition to acquisition.
This can maximize the postgraduate student turnover rate, publications, and eventually more students can be accepted.
The University is well aware of some of these issues and is working to fix them. The University has been doing mass expansion across faculties and halls of accommodation so that it can accept more students. More students = more money. The University now has a yearly forum for investors on research days (usually in February) where additional funding for research is received.
The area of research is getting better in Jamaica and though slowly, in time we will be parallel with the developed world.
The University of the West Indies, Mona Campus, is the largest and most recognized tertiary institution in Jamaica. The campus accommodates thousands of local and international students of varying cultural backgrounds. It becomes quite necessary for the university to provide many dining options to facilitate the students’ diverse palate.
It is very hard to find a place to purchase food that is easy on the pocket, great tasting, and has fast customer service. In most cases you have to choose two of the three options. Below are a list of the places you can purchase cooked food on campus and their raking. The list below is very subjective and is completely based on my personal experiences. The prices, menus and service stated are subject to change at the discretion of the business.
1. Yao UWI
Yes, Yao UWI branch is still in business, unbelievable?…..believe it! In my opinion this is the worst tasting food you can buy on campus. This is not an attempt to degrade the quality of food Yao, the Chinese fast food franchise provides, as its Sovereign branch makes a superb sweet and sour chicken that not only keeps me coming back for more, but is one of the reasons I am not a vegetarian as yet. If you are accustomed to the Sovereign branch, do not expect the same quality at the UWI branch, you will be disappointed. I am not the only one who has experienced this, but after eating at Yao UWI, I feel really really bloated. The good thing about Yao UWI is their fast service, and cost. A small meal cost $300 and they really pack your box! At Yao, you never have to wait very long.
Yao UWI 5/10
2. The Spot
Comparatively speaking, Yao sells more for less when compared to their neighbors, The Spot. The Spot, however sells way better tasting, Jamaican food in a comfortable environment designed to entertain. With a pool table, flat screen TV, slushes and alcoholic beverages, this restaurant truly hits, ‘the spot’. Waiting time is not optimized especially when serving a lot of customers, but the environment compensates for this inconvenience.
The Spot 7/10
3. Social Welfare
Immediately across from the health center, lies a secret most students don’t know. But those who do, more often than not give great reviews. The food (Jamaican) tastes very pleasing in a nice, closed, quiet environment. The price, though not the best for the quantity, does not put a politician in your pocket.
Social Welfare 6.5/10
4. Mae’s Cafeteria
The food isn’t very good, but the price is quite affordable. Attached to the Mary Seacole Hall, a nice environment and low waiting times the only real complaint I have is the food, which is the most important. I do not recommend Mae’s Cafeteria.
Mae’s Cafeteria 5/10
5. Bee Hive
One of the most popular places to buy quality cooked Jamaican food on campus. Opening at 7 with a diverse breakfast menu what anyone can afford, Bee Hive is thriving. You can buy fried dumplings in the morning and if you cannot afford the stewed chicken which cost $220 then you can have your dumplings with gravy for just an extra $20. With a friendly staff, Bee Hive ensures that everyone is satisfied. The biggest disadvantage with this restaurant is the waiting time. At about mid-day the waiting line may extend beyond the honey comb and the wait is very long. The price for a small meal is $340 and they tend to offer free fried dumplings in your meals to ensure nothing gets wasted. They also cater for vegetarians, offering meatless meals daily.
Bee Hive 7.3/10
6. Page’s Cafe
Pages Cafe is the most upscale place to buy food on campus. With their ‘Gourmet Thursdays’ often featuring grilled salmon and their unique daily menus, it is the spot for UWI staff members. The cost of each meal, however, is nothing to smile about. Quality food, but less than acceptable customer service and high prices kicks Pages out of the book for the number 1 spot.
Pages Cafe 6.9/10
7. Juicy Patties
Juicy is the most popular fast food franchise on campus. It is the number one choice for most students because the meals are not costly. The food sold for lunch are not very substantial but there is a lot from which you may choose. Juicy Patties offer an excellent breakfast menu including fritters, porridges, fried and cooked dumplings, chicken, callaloo and the best steamed fish you can buy on campus. Due to high demands, the restaurant has been optimized for fast service.
Juicy Patties 7.5/10
A fresh look and a new name for the cafeteria located right beside the UWI maintenance department. In my experience their only limitation is their ridiculously long waiting times. In time, I trust this will be resolved, but for now:
KFC – No good. The prices and the waiting times are the primary disadvantages of this franchise. The food is okay, if you like KFC. But there isn’t anything else I can positively say about it.
Everybody does it better.
10. The best place to buy cooked food on campus
Very recently I was introduced to this place by a friend. After trying it out, deciding which place was the best place to buy food on campus was easy as ABC. Yes, ABC Hall cafeteria, in my view, hits the spot. great tasting food, very affordable and very quick customer service. Many persons do not know this place exists as it is so far from the general campus population, but it is totally worth the walk. a small meal cost $290 and they do not hold back on the quantity. If you are able to close the box of food you receive, then return to Life of a Jamaican, for a full refund.
ABC Cafeteria 8/10
A.Z Preston Hall Cafeteria and Taylor Hall Cafeteria. Both are very affordable, food tastes pleasing and very low waiting times. Limited by their location.
Dukkuno Deli, located along the Ring Road just across from Mona school of business, offers pizza, salads, burgers and special drinks such as the ‘Mochaccino’ which is a coffee-chocolate blend. The prices are very high so only a select few make the Deli their daily choice.
In my previous article related to the new hall by ‘138 student living’, I expressed my disappointment at the high cost of accommodation. My disappointment was further emphasized based on some information I recently received. It appears they are really serious about their business and are already screening out the poor who hastily applied without knowledge of the cost.
A very close friend of mine, who I must say is living on the other side, where the grass is greener, received her letter of acceptance earlier today. In the letter she was congratulated for being accepted after having passed the status verification process! The letter went on to state that if she wants to secure her accommodation she is required to pay 395 USD on or before the 19th of June! So, she was given 2 weeks notice to pay over 46,000 JMD and this payment is NON-REFUNDABLE!
The company is looking out for its best interest. They want to ensure that individuals who apply and are accepted, are willing and able to pay the required rent. This may be good news for investors but a nightmare for those who were just saving towards their accommodation. They are already screening out the lower and middle class to make rooms available to society’s most elite. They are obviously looking for persons with serious cash available long in advance.
I believe, however that non-refundable payments two months in advance is quite unreasonable. I had never been required to do so when living at the Marlene Hamilton hall, AZ Preston hall or the Elsa Leo Rhynie hall and those places of residence are quite successful.
While I am not pleased with the high cost, which reminds me how far down the food chain I stand, I do hope UWI reaps the rewards of its investment.
I have been invigilating exams for a few years now and it has been a very interesting experience. When I was an undergraduate student I believed invigilators didn’t have much to do other than signing my receipts and ensuring I don’t cheat, but now, speaking from the point of view of an invigilator, I assure you it is a very tiring job.
So the first step is to have the exam room prepared. This involves placing receipts and other materials the students need on each desk. We then allow the students to enter the room at the appropriate time ensuring they are reminded of the items which are not allowed inside the exam center. This may be annoying for some, but every day students still attempt to enter with cell phones or various forms of paper (both not allowed). Sometimes physical searching is done as well. We then hand the question papers (which are all in sealed bags) to the students approximately five minutes before the start of the exam to allow them to look through and ensure they have the correct number of printed pages. When the exam starts we collect the receipts, sign and file the original copy. The carbon copies are returned to the students when the exam is finished. During the examination session we ensure students are comfortable while we constantly look for any irregular activities or possible cheating.
The Student’s Attitude
Almost every student wait until the last minute to enter the exam center, studying to the very last minute then rush in, having less time to relax and look through the paper. Some students don’t believe that Invigilators should search or ask them anything. This is particularly true for the law and medical students who tend to be very cranky during the exam season. Students also do not like being placed in a seat, this is especially true for the social sciences students as they want to sit where they chose, randomly. This will cause a lot of problems especially if we have a full room, without order the exam session will be chaotic. Students are seated based on arrival time and are only allowed to sit in one row (sitting from top to bottom) until it is filled, the row immediately beside it becomes available. Students should be aware that cooperation is the fastest way to get ahead as we are simply doing our jobs.
The Student’s Attire
There is no dress code for examinations and students make it so obvious that there isn’t. Most students don’t really care what they wear and that’s understandable given they may be up all night studying and have no time to get dressed. I don’t believe short dresses are appropriate for exams but that’s just me, last week there was a girl in a skirt so short, I’m sure I saw her sphincter ani externus.
When it comes to the hair I believe most students can honestly say ‘I woke up like this’. When you have to study , no time for a hair do.
But on the other hand there are well-groomed students! Well dressed young ladies with make up and a proper hair do. These are the persons who believe that if they are going to fail, then they are going to look good doing it.
A few minutes after the start of an exam last semester a young lady doing a history course asked to use the bathroom. I accompanied her outside but noticed she was going in the wrong direction. I stopped her and she revealed her true intentions. She said she doesn’t know what to do on the paper and wants to go back to her car to study. I informed her that it is not allowed as she had already seen the question paper. She continued walking to her car while I tried to stop her. Thankfully a female security was nearby, I asked for her assistance but the student again lied saying she actually wants to use the bathroom. The security and I followed her but she whispered to me “I’m never coming out”. That would have been a real inconvenience so I informed the chief Invigilator, Dr. Hyslop. Many attempts were made to get her out of the bathroom but she would not budge. It took a while but she eventually came out telling us she is sick and needs to see the doctor, we offered to take her to the health center but she insisted on having her private doctor. We did not heed to that request. She then started crying saying her mom died. Of course we didn’t believe her. The security confidentially told me she believes the student was not totally sane. We all believed something was wrong with her. What scared me though was her threat. She slowly looked at me, the cause of her pain, and said. “Yuh betta nuh mek mi see you again or mi ago run yuh ova wid mi car!” I almost peed myself. After about an hour she was allowed to leave. I marked the color of her BMW, for my safety. She wrote nothing on the paper, surely she failed
The geographical cheater
A guy doing geography was cheating. He was successful, the exam was over. But when handing back his booklet the paper he brought into the exam (containing all the answers) fell to the ground, he had left it in the booklet! Thankfully the lecturer was there to see for himself. The student was written up, of course, he failed.
The missing page cheater
Last semester a few of us Invigilators saw a young man cheating, for verification, several of us watched as he copied the answer from a paper he brought into the exam. We told the chief and took the paper from him. He said he wrote the answer in the booklet and then tore it out but checking his booklet we found it was perfectly intact. We turned our backs a few seconds and he tried to tear a page out of his booklet to confirm his story. This irregularity was reported to examination section and of course he was allowed to make an attempt to defend himself. I did not hear the final result of his trial.
Exams are still in progress, if anything interesting happens I will update this post.