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Law Faculty sets a precedent

14 June 2012 06:44 pm - 0     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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As we all know, currently, a non-academic strike is underway in all the Universities in our country. According to Sri Lanka’s Inter University Trade Unions Federation, this strike has been called islandwide to force the government to rectify the salary anomalies that have been there for a long time now. And, they have vowed not to suspend the strike until their demands are granted.
There is nothing wrong in resorting to a strike as a collective bargaining strategy to win the rights of the working class. Though the right to strike is not in black and white in our law books, its implications are accepted in our jurisdiction from the respective statutes (Constitution, Industrial Dispute Act etc.) and from the line of cases heard in the superior courts. Therefore, the trade union action has a good legal pedigree, at a glance, as long as they do not come under essential services.
We are having our final Law exams at this moment. Students attend their exams as usual as on previous occasions. The exam hall is well-prepared for this. We are given question papers in the same way as previous years. Apparently, exams run smoothly as before. But, one thing is missing— the non-academic staff that were in full attendance on other occasions. In such a situation would anyone accept as true that the Faculty of Law is conducting her Final Years’ exams without the use of elbow grease by the non-academic staff? Could you ever believe that the Dean of a Faculty would present himself early in the morning to do the job of opening the doors of the exam hall, which under normal circumstances is a duty exclusively set aside for the non-academic staff of a university? However, I have heard that Professor Timothy Endicott, Professor of Legal Philosophy and Dean at the University of Oxford used to show up at the University early in the day to open some halls as there was no one around to do the job at the time. Nevertheless, in Sri Lanka, it is rare to see University lecturers prepare desks and chairs and work hard to make the exam hall fit for conducting examination, as we got the luxury of non-academic staff to do such work.
Almost all the Universities in the country are at a standstill and students are at home due to the strike. The only institution going against the tide is the Faculty of Law, University of Colombo. This is one of the virtues that students expect from their mentors – teachers. In this context, one incident that took place at the Harvard Law School is noteworthy. A rare academic-staff strike led by a well-known Professor at Harvard, Mr. Derrick Bell had been called regarding racial discrimination in the appointments of the law school. It was totally a humanitarian issue. This sort of instances show us how university scholars can contribute something more through their respective fields just like the Colombo Law Faculty is doing at present, rather than being labelled as armchair academics.
Galagama Ashan Nanayakkara
Final Year Student of the Faculty of Law, University of Colombo
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