Support the CLS Statement on the University of the West Indies
In Defence of UWI, its Vice Chancellor, and its Reparations CampaignRead the Petition
Caribbean Labour Solidarity notes the publication of the Report of the UWI Chancellor’s Commission on Governance of the UWI. In particular we note the proposals:
• To abolish the principal locations of democracy within the university such as the financial and general purposes committee.
• The creation of a university executive committee council, which will take charge of the administrative and executive work of the university. The new committee would be headed by the Chancellor of the university, which would mean that the Chancellor would assume the roles of both chairman and Chief Executive Officer,
• To install six advisory committees, to deal with critical issues relating to the university. The body of these committees would consist of; half university personnel, with the remaining half being external persons from the private sector, thus leading to increased privatisation of the university.
• The recommendation that Caribbean governments double the fees charged to Caribbean (home) students, for their education at the UWI.
We recognise that such neoliberal privatisation tactics have been applied at many universities across the world, to disastrous effect. We note that the report paints an unfairly bleak picture of the university’s current state, whereas in reality, since the appointment of the current Vice-Chancellor, the University of the West Indies has:
• Created, and advanced a developmental programme that has elevated the reputation of the university, within international rankings. This has enabled the university to use its newfound influence and ranking to leverage a developmental programme for the institution, allowing it to yet further its international reach, leading to academic and developmental partnerships with outstanding institutions in every continent. This in effect; has led to creation of a global strategy to sell educational services to the international community, to generate income to be used to help underwrite the education of young people across the Caribbean.
• Established the CARICOM (Caribbean Community) Reparations Research Centre, at the UWI Mona Campus, Jamaica.
• Developed an online education programme, to sell its services to the world’
• Established 10 academic centres across 5 continents, including in the following locations: United States, Canada, Colombia, UK, Nigeria, South Africa, China, and Cuba. This was achieved as a result of strong partnerships, with outstanding institutions, in these parts of the world.
• Earned a place among the top 600 universities in the world, the top 40 in Latin America and the Caribbean, and in the top 100 Golden Age University Rankings and Impact Rankings in 2020. The UWI remains the only Caribbean university to make these prestigious lists.
• Engaged in a process of reducing the arrears owed to the university by the Caribbean governments by entering an arrangement with the Caribbean governments, who in exchange gave the university assets.
• Negotiated a successful reparative justice arrangement with the University of Glasgow.
This report has been published at a time when the contract of the Vice Chancellor, Professor Hilary Beckles, is due for renewal, and that there has been a delay in this renewal.
We reject the conclusions and proposals of the Report of the UWI Chancellor’s Commission on Governance of the UWI and call for its immediate withdrawal.
In particular we call upon the governments of the Caribbean to reject any proposal to raise student fees.
We reject any further privatisation of education.
We defend the academic freedom of the staff at UWI and the academic autonomy of the university.
We call for the immediate reappointment of Professor Hilary Beckles as Vice Chancellor of UWI.
We call upon Mr Bermudez to recognise that the role of Chancellor is ceremonial and call upon him to restrict his activities to ceremonial matters. He should use his role to promote the development of UWI as laid down by the university’s academic community and not interfere in the running of the institution.
Covid 19 has impacted tremendously on the economies of the Caribbean. It is the most tourism and travel dependent region in the entire world and so Covid has hit the region harder than any other.
Many of the things that have been fought for and built up over the decades are now in jeopardy, so this is a very difficult time. If the region is to get through this crisis safely, two of the instruments that are critical to us are the University of the West Indies and the CARICOM reparations campaign.
The reparations campaign is being deployed to help achieve the kind of international support needed in terms of financial resources and institutional support from the important financial and developmental institutions of the international community. Reparations are intrinsic to a survival strategy for the Caribbean, as is the University of the West Indies.
We challenge those financial and business institutions that profited so greatly from criminal enslavement and colonisation of Africans, as a result of which enslaved and colonised peoples and nations have been inserted in the international order in a structurally subservient and exploitative manner. Because of that history of exploitation, the nations and people of the Caribbean now have a right to development and these institutions are bound by a duty to facilitate that development.. So it cannot be business as usual.
We resolve to campaign to defend the University of the West Indies and Professor Hilary Beckles and to continue our campaign for reparations for enslavement.