Vice-President Takes Over In Student Crisis
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By Tamani Nair
USP Journalism Student
SUVA: University of the South Pacific student vice-president Mele Apisai has taken over acting leadership of the student body following the controversial barring of the student president from entering campus.
She just arrived back in Suva from Kiribati along with other Kiribati students last week and was yesterday bewildered by the crisis when Pacific Journalism Online spoke to her.
The president, Veresi Bainivualiku was locked out by university officials following an alleged assault on an Indo-Fijian student and threats against staff last Friday.
A disciplinary hearing is expected to be called by university authorities to consider the affair.
It is also alleged that Bainivualiku had also made racist slurs aimed at Indo-Fijian staff and security officers.
The Association of University of the South Pacific Staff (AUSPS) president, Dr Biman Prasad, wrote to Vice-Chancellor Solofa calling for immediate expulsion of Bainivualiku from the university.
Instead, the university barred Bainivualiku from entering university premises until the disciplinary committee meets.
But a date has yet to be decided on the hearing.
According to the university's secretariat administrative assistant, Titilia Tuinaceva, the administration is waiting for a report.
The barring of Bainivualiku from campus has upset members of the Fijian Students Association (FSA).
A meeting was held at the university's Orange Lounge on Tuesday, and a protest march was planned for yesterday.
But this was called off and the reason given was that no action would be taken by the association until the outcome of the disciplinary hearing.
According to sources who had attended the meeting, it was decided that the members would march to the administration office and hand over a petition letter airing their grievances.
But this was denied by the president of FSA, Jone Fifita.
Fifita has also criticised the handling of the crisis by the university.
"When a group of Samoan students had a punch-up just before the coup, no one was barred from university," Fifita said.
"When it came to Bainivualiku, he was barred barred straight away."
The crisis on campus has prompted international reaction from visitors browsing the USP journalism website's feedback page, Pacific Journalism Online's Talanoa.
Peni Gavidi, of Canada, said after viewing a story that the website ran on Bainivualiku.
"It is sad to see that the country's institutions are working against the development of what used to be Fiji."
"You have some elements of the army who acquired experience abroad and then lashed it out on it's own people. And then you have an educational institution whose students prefer to settle disputes by a punch-up rather than dialogue."
"One wonders what kind of leaders are trained for the future."
PJO tried to get comments from the person who was allegedly assaulted by Bainivualiku but he did not turn up for the interview yesterday.
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