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UWI Cave Hill Makes Major Investment to Aid Online Teaching

For Release Upon Receipt - Wednesday, September 9, 2020

Following a one-week delay to the start of classes, and a significant investment in technological and infrastructural upgrades, since the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic, authorities at The University of the West Indies Cave Hill campus say all systems are go for teaching to get underway on Monday, September 14 for the 2020/21 academic year.

The postponement has enabled professional, academic and administrative staff to fine tune the campus’ response to several unique or first-time challenges. These include an unprecedented timetabling initiative, online academic counselling, widespread physical distancing and other health protocols requirements, and major enhancement of its IT and other requirements to support virtual teaching.

A state-of-the-art video conferencing system has been installed in more than 40 teaching spaces, some of which will be used for the first time. More spacious teaching areas were required so that students are seated at least six feet apart, as mandated by national COVID-19 protocols, while receiving their instruction at the same time as others, locally and abroad, who cannot or choose not to attend classes in person.

Principal Professor the Most Honourable Eudine Barriteau disclosed that all told, the campus spent more than $3 million in refurbishment work and enhancements, including almost $150 000 in audio-visual equipment to outfit more than 40 undergraduate and graduate spaces in order to provide the face-to-face and online, or hybrid teaching environments.

“It has been an expensive undertaking but one which we believe was critical in order for us to deliver on our mandate of developing the region’s human resource capital. We have an obligation to provide our highly rated educational services to the many who seek it from within Barbados and across the region but who cannot make it to these shores at this time because of a lack of or limited air transport. COVID-19 is a reality that could be with us for quite some time and we have to adjust our lives to live with it, even while we undertake all preventative measures to protect the campus community.”

Included in the widespread refurbishment is a near million-dollar upgrade of the air conditioning system at the Medical Sciences Teaching Complex, with the replacement of four of its six commercial units, and modification of existing ducts to improve airflow and address environmental issues. The Roy Marshall Teaching Complex, Sidney Martin Library, Frank Worrell Hall and Sherlock Hall are among many student-centred areas given upgrades.

In addition, The Faculty of Law has undergone a $125,000 electrical upgrade to expand the existing supply to the building in order to accommodate additional load anticipated from online teaching activity.

The upgrades come at a time when the campus has had to take a 7.6 percent cut to its budget, even as it seeks to maintain a safe environment for students and staff.

Addressing a virtual town hall meeting with students on September 3, Professor Barriteau said the campus’ expenses have increased as a result of COVID-19.

She also responded to students’ query of a $10 increase in amenities fee per semester, stressing that Cave Hill is operating on a reduced budget this year, and the increase in amenities fee is a contribution to the range of services being provided by the campus for students’ benefit.

“Everything we do for you is extremely heavily subsidised and we will continue to do that because we have to. But the funding available to the campus is drastically reduced. So the amenities fee becomes a small drop in the bucket of maintaining a package of services to you,” Principal Barriteau said.

President of the Guild of Students, Thatcher Loutin also defended the increase, acknowledging that a portion of the amenities fees is paid to the guild which needs the fees in order to maintain its services to students.

“At this time … we actually need the amenities in order to operate,” Loutin said. “If we don’t get that $60 (per student) then we can’t give scholarships, we can’t fulfil our welfare drive, we can’t fulfil our financial grants obligation; we can’t fulfil our financial aid … so everybody will be at a disadvantage.”


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