UPNG TO SHUT, ACADEMIC BOARD VOTES TO CANCEL FINAL TERM

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By Phil-Peers Yombon

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (Oct. 14, 1999 – The National)---The Academic Board Standing Committee yesterday voted to shut the University of PNG for the rest of the year over the continuing boycott of classes by students.

The board decided to cancel the third term, as it was "no longer viable" after students missed classes for 10 days.

A source said last night that the board's decision was purely on academic grounds, as under the restructure, missing 10 days of the 10-week term meant it was no long "academically viable."

The University Council must now endorse the decision.

The source said the full University Council will hold an emergency meeting to discuss the decision before its next scheduled meeting on November 17.

The students are protesting against the decision of the University Council to raise user fees to 25 percent.

They have boycotted classes since October 1, and were joined this week by students from other tertiary institutions in the country.

In a petition to the University Council, the students have demanded that the increase be withdrawn, as it would impose an unjustified burden on the parents.

If the University Council endorses the academic board decision, it would mean that there would be no graduation, and first year students will have to struggle to re-enroll in competition with new intakes.

Student leaders from UPNG met last night at the Granville Motel to discuss the academic board's decision and their response to it.

But a spokesman for the UPNG Crisis Committee said last night they would not comment on the issue, as they had not been officially informed about the decision.

It is understood that student leaders from most tertiary institutions, including UPNG, Unitech and University of Goroka, were at the Granville meeting.

Meanwhile, Nonggorr and Associates lawyers successfully obtained a National Court order on behalf of the university, refraining the Students Representative Council and the UPNG Crisis Committee leaders from harassing, intimidating, threatening, assaulting, or demonstrating against other students or staff who attend classes or wish to attend classes for the remainder of the academic year.

Also yesterday, the PNG Trade Union Congress called on the University Council to submit to the students all relevant documents justifying the cost increases.

The congress described the action of the University Council as irresponsible.

"We call on the University Council to convene an urgent meeting with SRC for the purposes of negotiation to attain an amicable resolution," the union's general secretary, John Paska, said.

For additional reports from The National, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/The National (Papua New Guinea).

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