UWI faculty tasked with problem solving
The University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus, Faculty of Social Sciences academic staff are into their 40th anniversary celebrations, propelled by a charge to expand and continue a legacy.
Such were the urgings of lecturers present at the beginning of the 40-year journey, Professor Frank Alleyne and Professor Christina Barrow, who along with Cave Hill Campus principal Professor Eudine Barriteau last night implored faculty members to step up their level of relevance and meaning to Caribbean society.
“It is time for the emergence of a new generation of public intellectuals dedicated to putting their knowledge in service to the society,” Barriteau said in the Walcott Warner Theatre of the Errol Barrow Centre For Creative Imagination, where the faculty honoured past contributors.
Citing an example of contributions to society by a faculty member in years gone by, the principal said: “I remember well when [former dean, now deceased] Wendell McClean made the public utility companies tremble with the depth and cogency of his analysis.”
She called out, along with McClean’s, the names of Sir Frank Alleyne, Velma Harper, Cynthia Layne, Neville Duncan, Lawrence Nurse and Monica Smith, however declaring: “Tonight, I do not want to reflect on the past 40 years. Instead I want to look forward to the next 40.”
She continued: “Those pioneers provided templates for academic and public engagement; they inscribed records of scholarly work, they wrote manuals of administrative procedures, and collectively designed blueprints for the university’s insertion in civil society. They have every reason to feel satisfied.
“They have done their part. You who have inherited this solid architecture of achievement must now expand the horizon of the faculty’s ongoing contributions to Caribbean well being.”
Barriteau told her colleagues to regard Caribbean society as their laboratory and tasked them “to undertake the necessary work that bridges the knowledge we produce with the need for problem solving in our communities. Your responsibilities to Caribbean societies become greater, because the Faculty of Social Sciences attracts and accommodates more than half
of the students admitted to the Cave Hill Campus”.
The principal observed: “The future of Cave Hill is therefore tightly interwoven with the future of the faculty.”
Barriteau’s observation the campus’ future was tied to this faculty, that accounts for more students than any other, was supported by Sir Frank Alleyne, a two-time vice-dean in the 1980s, and dean from 2000 to 2004.
“Establishment of the Cave Hill Campus is the ladder which has provided social and economic mobility for vast numbers of persons in this Barbados and the OECS countries, and farther afield,” he said. “And I think it would be most unwise if the present leadership of the faculty fails to hold that tradition, because it is akin to climbing on the ladder, and then you kick down the ladder.”
Alleyne pointed out that the Faculty of Social Sciences had made its presence felt in pivotal positions of Barbadian life.
“We have transformed the public service of Barbados. I can hardly think of a ministry in Barbados where the permanent secretary and deputy permanent secretary were not graduates of this campus. The same is true of the teaching service in Barbados.”
Professor Barrow, who took up appointment in 1970, urged to faculty “to retake its prominent position, its lead in promoting research on those bigger questions that we really need to have a look at”.
She cited the need to look further into the impact of globalization and neoliberalism on the Caribbean, the environment, climate change, sustainable development, poverty, social inequality, social exclusion and social justice, among other areas in need of indepth attention.
While conceding there was evidence of this “grand scale research”, she commented “but maybe not enough”.
Advising current academic staff to “take the lids off our disciplinary boxes . . . comfort zones”, when approaching research, she added: “Maybe we need to rethink the value of having a much more open, broader degree, at least for the first semester, or year.
“In 1970 the brilliant and inspiring ideas of the New World Group is still strongly influential . . . but I think we may have lost some of this grand focus.
“My plea therefore is for conceptual research, rethinking ideas, moving from the ‘what is?’ questions into those huge conceptual ‘why?’ questions.”