erupted again in the University system. It was a few weeks back
that the University of Kelaniya was closed following clashes
between students and villagers. The University remains closed
still and academic programs disrupted.
This time, violence has erupted in the University of Colombo
between two groups of students. It has caused injuries to
students and extensive damage to University property. Further,
members of the academic staff who intervened to settle the
dispute were verbally abused and threatened with physical harm.
These clashes show the level to which intellectual atmosphere
in the University has fallen. The cream of the student
population whose superior talents have earned for them a place
in the Universities is behaving like street ruffians and
Such violence cannot be condoned or excused on the grounds of
exuberance of youth. It should be condemned in no uncertain
Such violence results in several negative consequences that
have repercussions far beyond the confines of the University
system. Firstly, it spoils the academic environment of the
University which affects the quality of its output.
Secondly, it fractures the student body which diminishes its
significance and relative power in the system. This gives the
administrators a chance to ride rough shod on student demands.
Thirdly, damaged University property has to be replaced with
existing funds which could otherwise have been used for further
improving the material conditions of study. Further, it is an
additional burden on the public at large who provide the funds
for maintenance of the Universities. Fourthly, such recurrent
violence has the danger of the public losing confidence in the
Universities. Fifthly, it would damage the reputation of the
As pointed out by the Arts Faculty Teachers Association of
the Colombo University, it is only a minority segment of the
student mass that is responsible for such wanton destruction and
anarchy while the majority of students are hapless onlookers or
held to ransom by the former.
Very often, as in the present instance, violence erupts over
parochial interests mostly connected with political party
allegiances. It is a sad reflection on the leadership of these
political parties that profess to follow democratic and
civilized behaviour that they cannot restrain their following. A
considerable share of the blame goes to these political parties
too for the anarchy in the University campuses.
The University authorities and the tutorial staff too cannot
be fully exonerated for they have been unable to find a solution
to such recurring violence for several decades. Even now they
have no solution except calling for tough punitive action.
Punitive action alone cannot solve the problem. One need only
recall that harsh legislation has so far failed to eliminate the
ugly spectacle of ragging freshers which still continues causing
mental and physical agony to the victims.
Nor have sociologists, including those in the Universities
found out the causes that lead to unruly behaviour amongst youth
and put forward any remedial measures. There is also no proper
student counselling system in the Universities.
True, the violence in the Universities reflect the violence
in society at large. It was often said that the gun culture that
grew and spread since the 1980s, largely on account of the war
and civil conflict was the root cause of such violence. Now that
the war is over, efforts must be made urgently to root out this
culture of violence and restore law and order throughout society
including the University campuses.
However, it must be mentioned that campus violence predates
the war. Hence war cannot be given as an excuse for campus
violence. Much more thought has to be given to ways and means of
absorbing rural youth into the campus milieu and in developing a
more congenial atmosphere for intellectual debate, discourse and
creativity in the campuses.
Prevention better than cure
The current dengue epidemic has once again demonstrated the
truth of the old adage ‘prevention is better than cure’. It is
not only dengue, even many killer diseases such as diabetes and
heart ailments prove the same. Sedentary life styles,
consumption of junk food and many more features of the modern
day lifestyle contribute to them. The same is true of many more
including HIV/AIDS and other STDS.
In all these what is required is an extensive public
awareness campaign to inculcate safe and healthy living styles.
There is a strong case for increasing financial allocations for
preventive medicine in the national budget.