Cuttington College in Liberia plans a graduation in spite of renewed violence

June 13, 2002

The students and faculty of Cuttington University College (CUC)were driven from campus in early May because of renewed fighting but they have set up temporary facilities in the capital city of Monrovia. Despite a renewal of the civil war that has plagued the west African nation for almost a generation, the college is planning to graduate a class at the end of July.

'We are in our second week of classes with 558 students--and all is going well,' reported Cuttington's president, Dr. Melvin Mason, in a status report at the end of May. 'Our fourth academic year is nearing its end,' he wrote. 'Originally scheduled to end July 7, the new date is now July 28, provided everything holds as planned.' This would be the first graduating class since the reopening of the campus in October 1998, after a previous cessation of hostilities in the country's ongoing civil war.

Mason noted that the renewal of violence 'has disrupted our plans and imposed increased financial strain upon us.' He has appealed to Colleges and Universities of the Anglican Communion and Episcopal Relief and Development for assistance. 'Operation Survival is our slogan.'

In his descriptions of the evacuation and subsequent looting of the campus by 'heavily armed plainclothes men,' Mason said that the unarmed campus security force was 'no match for these intruders.' Armed men with trucks carried out 'massive looting of houses and dormitories,' taking everything left behind by the students. 'Most homes were clearing of everything that could be taken away easily, including small freezers, air conditioners and television sets. In order to collect these items, doors were broken and roofs were damaged to enter buildings. Now that the rainy season is here, the impending damage to houses and other buildings is incalculable,' he reported.

Mason said that the marauders also killed or carried away livestock on the campus and surrounding area, drained a fish pond and 'threatened to open fire upon the CUC security if they attempted to intervene in an effort to protect the fish ponds.'

'On the other hand, the academic areas were not so badly looted, but much damage was done,' Mason wrote in his report. 'Academic offices were all broken into and left opened with documents scattered about.'

He added, 'In order to conduct classes in Monrovia, about 95 percent of all equipment, academic materials and records were brought down,' and many 'contributions in kind' were given by individuals and agencies to help the college reconvene. Classes resumed May 27. There is no public water supply or electricity in Monrovia, so generators are being used in the building now leased by the college.

'We are thankful to God for protecting us in our travel, enabling us to obtain a suitable building and relocating safely on our 'new campus,'' Mason concluded.