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Law faculty dean applauds students for dancehall stance

Published:Wednesday | February 27, 2019 | 12:00 AMDave Rodney/Gleaner Writer
Dr Leighton Jackson
Vybz Kartel
Buju Banton (left) hails supporters after his release from prison late last year. file

With controversy swirling around criticism that students from The University of the West Indies law faculty have been facing as a result of depicting dancehall outfits as a part of their annual Law Week celebrations in Reggae Month, the dean of the Faculty of Law, Dr Leighton Jackson, has come out in forceful support of his Mona students.

Well-known attorney-at-law Peter Champagnie last week lambasted the Mona Law Society at The University of the West Indies, for posting on social media pictures of female students skimpily dressed.

But several attorneys have taken issue with Champagnie’s stance, describing it as self-righteous, high-handed and hypocritical.

Yesterday, a visibly upset and dismayed Dr Jackson, who is in New York on sabbatical leave, said the students were well within their rights to depict Jamaica’s reggae and dancehall culture in the way they did.

“There is no power in the dean or any other official of the university to dictate to a student organisation as to what their view should be, as long as it does not violate any law of the country, or written rule of the university,” he told The Gleaner.

“I applaud my students to have come up with this remarkable plan, especially since two of Jamaica’s leading exponents of dancehall, Vybz Kartel and Buju Banton, have come in conflict with the legal system.”

Jackson feels that many aspects of Jamaica’s indigenous culture, including dancehall, has over many years been hypocritically disparaged by some sections of the Jamaican society.

“The personal views and those of any other ‘biggies’, including Mr Champaignie’s, are irrelevant as to whether and how the students of the Faculty of Law of The University of the West Indies express themselves through their lawful organisation,” Jackson said.

“No individual or selected group of persons has ownership of the university’s reputation superior to the ownership of the students who pay the fees,” he added.

Suppression of students

Dr Jackson pointed out that any pulling of the plug would be a suppression of the students’ right to freedom of expression, a human right guaranteed under the Constitution.

He also lamented the fact that images of the female law students were splashed across the newspapers, leaving them feeling betrayed and exposed to taunts, bullying and in a very precarious emotional state.

“Hundreds of lawyers and alumni have come out in vocal support of the students, and some have even offered financial sponsorship, and another follow-up event will be announced in due course,” Jackson said.