Research pain

Sir Hilary Beckles (File photo)

We will survive!

That was the song being sung by Principal of the Cave Hill Campus, Professor Sir Hilary Beckles, who stated this morning that despite the challenges associated with funding and the fact that research funds are being used to keep staff employed, the university will not fold.

The Pro-Vice Chancellor has long been at odds with Government over the lack of payment of a debt owed the institution. In reference to that debt this morning as the campus launched its new renewable energy initiative, Sir Hilary stated that his vision for the university over the next decade was being hampered by this money issue.

He had just moments before praised his head of research, Pro-Vice Chancellor Professor Wayne Hunte, whom he noted had almost single-handedly brought an historic US$70 million to $80 million in research grant funds into the institution to drive projects.

He lamented though that while this should have resulted in Cave Hill driving a revolution in science and technology and renewable energies in the island, the reality has been distressing.

“I should tell you that I am also in a state of sadness. I am saddened by the fact that we have put together in the university all of the components to launch the renewable energy revolution; to transform the university, to transform the country to impact the region.

“We have laid down the infrastructure, we have the science, we have the technology, we have the leadership in the faculty and Dean [Peter] Gibbs has put together his team, working with Mr. [Jim] Reid [of Caribbean LED], putting together all of this. We have the leadership and leadership is a very slippery variable because you could have it today and lose it tomorrow and you are back to square one.

“But what we have in the faculty is sustainable leadership… We’ve put it all together and this is the moment when our university is now financially distressed. Resources that we have had, that we have generated to throw into the science and technology revolution, resources that we had generated through our own engagement to fund science and technology and energy research, we now have to use those resources to pay salaries and wages at the Cave Hill Campus and that saddens me.”

The principal said the campus was geared to make a “transforming contribution” to society, with renewable energy technologies at the helm, but added: “Now we have an enormous debt, a cloud over this campus; it is rolling back our research capacity and capability.”

Everyone in Barbados, he challenged, should understand what this meant, because there was a tendency to separate the work of the campus from the development of the country, which should not be.

The fact that the campus was unable to deliver on the expectations and needs of the country, he added, was a sad thing for Barbados, especially as it was prepared to do so, but lacked the resources.

“I try to imagine the campus 10 years from now and I am now distressed that what we were going to do to create that has been weakened somewhat, but at the same time that emotion of sadness and reflection is a fleeting emotion. It comes over me like a wave and it goes; but fundamentally, we are re-energised despite this crisis.

“We are re-energised to achieve by alternate means what it is that we set out to be. So we are not going to be undermined by this; we are not going to be weakened by this.”

In fact, the principal said far from being weakened, they would regroup and find alternate sources to do what must be done. He vowed that they would, “come again, and keep coming and we will keep coming and we will keep coming until we do it”. (LB)

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