By Dr. Selwyn R. Cudjoe
November 14, 2017
The last time I heard, the University of Trinidad and Tobago (UTT) was a public institution, which suggests the public owns it. This suggests further that the public (in this case, the taxpayers) have a right to know what’s taking place at “our national university” since the taxpayers have spent billions of dollars to establish this public institution.
In other words, the public has an obligation to question the raison d’etre, the pedagogical direction, and the quality of the leadership at UTT. It’s not self-evident that UTT is going in the best direction and possesses the most astute leadership.
But, things do not go so in T&T. Our national university is collapsing, the newspapers, faithful to their mission of informing the public, alert us to that fact, (Express, November 3), but the Minister of Education, scolding the public right to know, declares: “I was surprised that it was made public because we are in a process of discussion how best we can meet the challenges we face” (my italics, Express, November 4).
One is not sure who constitutes the royal “we” of this statement or what are the challenges that “we” face, apart from the loss of jobs. Minister Garcia informs us that he has met with the Prime Minister and will discuss the matter with the Finance Minister “so as to be in a better position to articulate the Government’s position,” which I presume is the royal “we.”
Fazal Karim, a UNC MP, jumps into the spree as he has every right to do. He argues the job cuts that may ensue from a UTT collapse are “deeply troubling.” He counsels: “The displaced priorities of the PNM continue unabated in all spheres of public life from stadia, golf courses, fine art and the like. Yet, the UTT board of governors and the PNM government is intent on destroying the livelihoods of UTT staff” (Express, November 4).
He says the government has no plans “for education and training or national development.” It’s content to waste the public monies and destroy “the hopes and dreams of many young people…in a most thoughtless and cold-hearted manner.”
Karim may have a point here. However, he fails to tell the country that PNM drew on the racist model UNC developed when it created the Trinidad and Tobago Institute of Technology (TTIT) to train Indo-Trinbagonians to control the energy sector at the exclusion of Africans. It is only after Brian Moore, former president of the Co-operative Credit Union League of T&T, and I exposed this racist institution in a two-part series on I95 fm in 2003 that PNM was forced to speed up the development of UTT.
TTIT built at a cost of over $100 million was almost exclusively for Indo-Trinibagonians. On September 30, 2003, I reported:
“TTIT consists of approximately eleven hundred students; seventeen full-time faculty members and about thirty-five part-time members. Of these seventeen full-time members, only one African has a permanent spot on the faculty. Fourteen members of the faculty are Indians. There is not one African who is a senior instructor on the faculty. All of the senior instructors, except one, do not have an MA degree as required by the rules of the institution. Of the part-time faculty there are no more than five African members. Approximately thirty members of the part-time faculty are Indians.
“Approximately 75 percent of the student body are Indians; about 25 percent are Africans. Perhaps about 75 percent of the students are males, 25 percent are female….There are about one hundred and twenty persons on staff of which approximately 70 percent are Indians” (trinicenter.com, September 30, 2003).
TTIT was rife with mismanagement. In one semester, seven of the seventeen full-time instructors taught more than twenty-five hours per week. One faculty member taught as many as thirty-eight hours per week, making a salary of $23,000 a month. One instructor gave students grades without administering examinations. Southern Alberta Institute of Technology Audit Team reported that some instructors “were guilty of making up marks and were teaching too many hours.”
When the University of Houston, engaged by TTIT to evaluate its program, pointed out that many of the faculty and students did not meet the scholastic and academic requirements, its contract was terminated immediately.
I warned the government: “The newly formed Trinidad and Tobago University… is looking favorably upon TTIT as the nucleus upon which to form our new university. I would suggest that we look at TTIT more carefully before we leap, lest many of the policies, racial and otherwise, their inefficiencies, inadequate instructors and bad instructional practices be replicated in the T&T University. The T&T University ought to inform the public how it intends to proceed with its development…. There has been no such discussion about this idea.”
Today, UTT’s website proudly proclaims: “With its genesis in the Trinidad and Tobago Institute of Technology (TTIT), UTT initially focused on programmes in engineering and technology. Today’s programmes, however go far beyond engineering and technology to a full spectrum of educational opportunities.”
If TTIT is the genesis of UTT, is there any wonder why UTT is in the mess it is today? And where was Karin and his UNC colleagues when TTIT was perpetrating a callous racial and financial fraud on our citizens?