Deputy Principal of the Cave Hill Campus of the University of the West Indies, Professor Eudine Barriteau, has expressed concern over “a noticeable decline in critical thinking and critical engagement by local intellectuals, governments, private sector personnel and UWI students in the larger challenges confronting Caribbean societies”.
Barriteau voiced this concern last night while speaking on the topic “Cave Hill in the Contemporary: The University as a Social Space” at the Errol Barrow Centre for Creative Imagination, Cave Hill Campus, as the campus celebrates its 50th anniversary.
The educator noted that an article written by columnist, Sir Ronald Sanders, had captured this malaise. The educator noted that Sanders had charged that Caribbean intellectuals were generally supine and silent while the region was in a vortex.
The deputy principal said: “I hold us all, myself included, accountable for this. I issue a clarion call to professors, lecturers, instructors, and tutors, all of us who trade in the public good of university education, to insist that whatever we teach, whatever we impart, whatever new pedagogical strategies we deploy, we never substitute techniques for substance and that we always remain committed to unravelling the challenges of Caribbean societies.
“This is what distinguishes UWI from other institutions that offer knowledge and skills – this commitment constitutes our competitive advantage. Simply put, we anchor our production of knowledge in the multiple and complex realities and challenges of Caribbean societies.
“We who occupy this sacred space entrusted to us in this West Indian academy must encourage and teach our students to always, always develop critical thinking, to think against the grain and employ an oppositional imagination.”
She noted that former Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago, Dr. Eric Williams, and his Barbadian counterpart, Errol Barrow, had insisted that the university be brought to the people.
“If in our celebratory impulse I have attempted to highlight how the Cave Hill campus shares its resources and talents, I do not at all mean to suggest that these activities satisfy the mandate to bring the university to the people.”
Barriteau maintained that in the global mission of the UWI, the collective activities and engagements will be merely cosmetic if the institution did not impart to its students and publics a commitment to safeguarding and strengthening the Caribbean.
She further argued that the university had a responsibility to the region’s history and the current period to deploy its intellectual skills to solve regional and national problems.
Critiquing the level of debate in Barbados and the region, the deputy principal said: “A lot of noise passes for political analysis, and passing flurries about whose medium term strategy makes more sense or is more flawed do not add up to a sustained debate, critique and road map for Caribbean economies in this poisoned global climate.
“As we move into our next 50 years, I urge UWI intellectuals, especially the next generation, to jealously guard our mission so that our university may keep faith with the deepest economic and social aspirations of Caribbean people.” (NC)