The Kingston College Old Boys’ Association (KCOBA) has reverted to the practice of not allowing women to its annual dinner usually held in November.
The decision was reversed by the new executive of the association which took office last December, but was only told to the general membership days ago, something which is causing anger within the fraternity.
The association has long held onto the practice of barring women from its annual dinner, except for 1975 when then Prime Minister Michael Manley was invited by old boy Howard Aris to speak and Manley insisted that he would only do so if his wife, Beverley, would be allowed in.
The association, at the time, bent the rule.
However, the matter has been a contentious one since then, with old boys arguing for, and against the participation of women.
The rule was changed for the annual dinners of 2012 and 2013 and organising committee members said that it resulted in the association realising surpluses for the first time in several years.
But the organisation, now led by engineer Dr Patrick Dallas, decided on the latest shift.
“Gentlemen, just a reminder that this year’s reunion and awards dinner function reverts to its traditional all-male format,” Dallas wrote in an e-mail sent to alumni on October 16.
Dallas referred the membership to a press release which outlined some details of the $5,000-a-plate function.
“As usual, the annual reunion and awards dinner will facilitate the social and intellectual enhancement of KC old boys and their friends and colleagues, while also providing a fitting occasion and space to honour our own. This umbrella reunion event incorporates several mini-reunions celebrating and marking significant anniversaries of various graduation classes and Fortis events. Importantly, too, we will show our appreciation to five great Jamaicans for their contributions to national and international development and to Kingston College, and for embodying the Fortis spirit,” Dallas is quoted by the press release as saying.
The dinner, sponsored by National Commercial Bank and Excel Auto, and set for November 2, will be addressed by recent St George’s College Hall of Fame inductee Earl Jarrett, general manager of Jamaica National Building Society.
The press release also stated that the dinner committee had promised what it called an “elegant affair, fitting for the honorees, coupled with tasteful entertainment and high-class presentations”.
But that has not pleased some old boys who consider it disrespectful to slam the door in the faces of the women.
“What this executive has done is a silly thing. They have all gone back to the dark days. I will not be attending the dinner if my wife cannot go with me,” one old boy told the Jamaica Observer.
“In this day and age we should not be trying to keep the women away from KC. We already have a situation whereby the institution is an all-boy school and there is nothing wrong with that, although the real strength of the institution lies with the women who support it. We are talking about a social event here and we should have the women to socialise with. There is nothing that happens at a KC annual dinner that should prevent women from attending. It is a backward step,” the old boy insisted.
Another old boy, who works at one of Jamaica’s leading public sector organisations, also wrote to Dallas protesting the non-inclusion of women.
“I am writing to express my disgust and extreme disappointment with the announcement from the KCOBA that there will be a reversion to the old way of an all-male format for the annual dinner,” the old boy stated.
“As a loyal old boy and president of the (organisation deleted) I will not be supporting the dinner this year, neither will I be selling any tickets as a form of protest for this ridiculous decision.
“There can be no logical rationale behind the reversion. I find it an insult to the many women who have supported KC over the many years. The many single, female parents (my mother included), our sisters (who would give their lives for us), our female co-workers (who defend KC to the max), the many female teachers who have nurtured us from first to sixth form, and the list goes on.
“No one is asking for females to be students of the school. No one is asking for females to take over the running of the KCOBA… but I believe that we can show a little appreciation to the ladies by opening up the dinner to them.
“The message of ‘no females’, which seems to be sent with a vengeance, sends a wrong signal to everyone, and I think it is full time the KCOBA stop this nonsense. Just so you know, I got (number deleted) tickets to sell and there were willing buyers. However, when they heard of the reversion, they handed back the tickets. I will always love my school, always try to do my part, but if I see us heading down a wrong path, I have to call a spade a spade,” the old boy wrote.
Another old boy, Vernon Davidson, the Jamaica Observer’s executive editor for publications, voiced his objection to the move in an e-mailed reponse to Dallas. “Thanks for the info, Mr President. That is $10,000 less for the organisation,” Davidson wrote.
Several other old boys in Jamaica and the United States have vented their anger, in communication dispatched to the Observer.