UWI Speaks…but what is it saying?

Today there was a march to show solidarity for Wayne Kublalsingh at the UWI, St. Augustine Campus.

To be more accurate: “A Solidarity Gathering in recognition of Dr. Wayne Kublalsingh” was what the notice about the event said. It came a solid two weeks after the hunger strike began and 3 days after the UWI Prinipal’s statement on the Hunger Strike.

A statement that can be described as embarrasing at best. In it the Principal sypathises with Kublalsingh, but is in favour of the Highway, in fact, he wants a Highway that extends to Cedros.

It is a statement that comes across as both callous and misinformed. Why? In it the Principal seeks to distance the University from Kublalsingh by stating he only works for the University on a 2-month contract. Which is intriguing to say the least. Kublalsingh has been on contract at the UWI for years. His is not just a 2-month contract. Kublalsingh taught me…and that was back in the mid-90s.

Further, you’re in favour of a highway for which we can’t even get the EIA report? Interesting.

Last week when news of the Hunger Strike hit the campus you could hear pins drop in the department that Kublalsingh works. People were only whispering on corridors. Sending an e-mail around to see who wanted to go visit the camp and show solidarity was frowned upon. Indeed, the only action UWI was definite about was that Kublalsingh’s classes had to be looked after.

As per a proper position on the issue….mehh! Not even the Guild President….and he was being prompted by peers to issue a statement….but his political affiliation is widely known and probably played a role in his prolonged silence .

Then over the weekend came the announcement of this show of solidarity. And I had to wonder what led to the show of conscience today.

It’s no secret that this institution suffers from incredible amounts of government interference. It’s in bed with the government…and scarily so.

So much so that writing against the government in newspapers columns like I do gets you the attention of management in less than positive ways.

It is also no secret that many key members of the Institute of Gender openly rallied for Kamla Persad-Bissesar in 2010. Some were even awarded by Persad-Bissessar’s government.

So the March took place and the usual suspects were there. the crowd wasn’t large. This is a University whose days of militant activist students are firmly behind it. These days the things that rile UWI students up are the same things that riled them up 10 and 15 and 20 years ago….shuttles to go clubbing and increased tuition fees or removal of GATE. Social awareness and UWI student in the same sentence is an oxymoron. And often times, social awareness and UWI lecturer too.

At this “Solidarity” today I watched a number of people pat themselves on the back for a job well done  – about 100 people had shown up.  They affirmed to each other that this was necessary! It had to be done! 13 days into a hunger strike. I surveyed the crowd and tried to pick out how many members of staff, who had managed to leave their offices and march around the campus had made it to the Re-Route Movement’s Camp in the last 10 days. I recognised only one. Im sure the others meant to get there….they just didn’t.

I looked around too at the many intellectuals and specialists in social science areas and wondered why weren’t more people speaking out publicly about the crucial issues?

To date not an expert from the UWI’s engineering or environmental sciences departments has weighed in on the Highway Protests. the Centre for Economic Studies, SALISES, will hold a forum on it Dec 4th….this protest has been on more than a year and it took a man 13 days of starving himself for the institution to sit up and take note.

But let’s back up a little. There are many more crucial issues that have occurrred before we got to this point in our socio-political history. There have been abuse of process, abuse of state funds, abuse of women, children, the constitution, the environment….and UWI has not been in the vanguard leading any discussions on any of the crucial issues.

So, I had to wonder why today? This show of solidarity was arranged by Gender Studies,…where were their comments during the State of Emergency (its chief organiser was openly in support of last year’s SoE.)? When Cheryl Miller was arrested? When Sita Gajardharsingh-Nanga was openly attacked and vilified? Section 34? Kamla’s attack on Rowley at Divali Nagar? Kamla’s constant use of the National Mother motif?

Maybe I should be heartened that they have finally responded. Maybe this is where it starts.

For now though I am sceptical. Sceptical because many of the key players are people that have openly compromised themselves in the past, so I don’t know that I can trust them to do the right thing about my future. Many of the key players for quite a long time kept silent because the government screwing up was made up of the parties they supported. And for many Trinidadians, loyalty is hushing up and supporting shit. The minute you criticise, it means you anti-everything. God forbid that any of them should come out and openly critique the government they supported.

But I imagine the attack on Kublalsingh has hit home. Wayne is a lecturer like them. Wayne supported the COP, or at least his family does. Wayne was eventually vilified and mistreated. Not that this government now start to mistreat people….but the stones finally start to fall in people yard. So they find a voice.


But I am not yet convinced about the reliability of this “solidarity. So, for now,  I watch and wait.


De Vice Cyah Done!


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11 thoughts on “UWI Speaks…but what is it saying?

  1. Excellent piece of writing. It touches the heart and soul of why we are in the morass we find ourselves. To compromise your principles is to kill your soul and many of us in this Trinbago have committed suicide. Very well said!

  2. Really? What Faculty are you from? I counted 9 from my Faculty alone, plus the Dean, plus SALISES boss… OK, tardy response, granted, but better late than never no?

    • Sir,
      I am glad the campus turn out amd response was satisfactory to you. But how many who turned up there actually made it to the St. Clair protest camp. I recognised only one other member of staff who actually went down to town. Further…day 13? And we are congratulating ourselves? Apart from SALISES which other department or institution actively engaging in topical issues that the public xan weigh in on?
      All of last week Dr Kublalsingh’s family was asking me about UWIs thoughts and responses and i had no word to give. When a member of staff wanted to rally support for a group to go visit the camp she was advised against sending emails. When she made the request by word of mouth staff were afraid to look too political. Forgive me for expecting the UWI to take a lead position on issues such as these and for my faculty, Humanities and Education, to be the institution’s conscience.

      • 13 days into a hunger strike a forum is called and branded a success? Id faster say it is a start…but not a success. It is also disconcerting for me that so few members of staff actually went to St Clair to show support. And an audience of 100 students and staff on a campus of 17000 students and a pretty sizable staff does not strike me as a huge success…but as a start. When are the environmentalists and engineers going to weigh in? When will larger numbers show their support in the oh so important way of visiting the camp site in St Clair?

  3. Congratulations for being the VOICE of many of us abroad. it is disheartening to know that what Eric Williams worked so hard to achieve for our country as a whole is being left at the way-side as the majority simply look on.

  4. Why Sankat don’t go back to Guyana and talk that stupidness. Yuh get a little wuk in our country and feel that gives you the right to make comments on things that impact citizens. He remind me of that chupid Jamaican girl from 95.5fm. Don’t have any claim to anything in our country but want to pass judgement.

    • Jason I don’t agree with your position. I believe anyone living in the space for as long as he has and contributing o it has a say. I just wonder what his support of the highway is based on since so much is up in the air…and I question too why try to distance the UWIs association with Kublalsingh.

  5. Dear Rhoda, an interesting take with things i definitely agree with and things i don’t. I was out of the country for a little over a week, arriving back in the midst of Wayne’s strike on Tuesday to teach that afternoon and on Wednesday, on Thursday my 80 students held their popular actions in the Quadrangle for the entire afternoon and on Friday I was doing advocacy for the LBGT community at a Network of NGO’s event before on Sunday beginning to organise both the gathering and the Salises event set to happen one week after the other. I taught again on Tuesday and Wednesday and was at the camp on Thursday. Given that I was the IGDS organiser, it would have been nice if you had asked me what led to the gathering in the first place and what explained its timing. I’m also disappointed at a number of other unfortunate misrepresentations regarding work that both myself and IGDS do that may not make papers and which you may not know about before writing. We good Rhoda, next time ask me nuh. Gab

    • Gabrielle, it is indeed unfortunate that you saw this blogpost as a personal statement on you and felt compelled to recite your recent schedule of activism.

      In fact it is a statement on the institution and its inability to remain relevant and cutting edge to a staff, student body and country that so desperately need guidance during this period of social and political upheaval.

      It is a comment too on how weirdly we handle public issues. An issue that is clearly about the nature of governance, public administration and the environment is engaged with by the Institute of Gender Affairs, while Gender issues go largely untouched by the same institute….that openly and actively supported the current PM and her regime in their run for office.

      It is also about how government interference or influence can render an institution that should be independent and critical in its thinking almost useless to the national discourse.

      However, if you see this blogpost as being about you then there is little I can do about that.

      It was not a review of your event, but me giving my opinion on an institution’s response, so no, I don’t need to consult you.

      And until you explain last year’s instant of professional discourtesy, no, we not good.

  6. Pingback: Trinidad & Tobago: Kublalsingh’s Hunger Strike Continues; So Does the Debate · Global Voices

  7. It is sad that the current generation is preoccupied with partying and drinking, it is time that UWI students become socially conscious. Even if u didn’t support Dr. Kublalsingh’s actions or those opposed to the highway, this government has done so much blatant crap that we need to collectively stand up and say enough is enough. The PM and her Cabinet has failed us and I am totally disgusted by them. Ms Rhoda you mentioned the book the The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born, I have read this book and it seems as if we are living it

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