Diversity Matters

By Dr Selwyn R. Cudjoe
October 29, 2019

Dr. Selwyn R. CudjoeIn 2003 I fought a doggedly battle to convince educators at (The University of the West Indies) that grades and standardized tests should not be the only criteria for selecting students to enter our university. Many people castigated me and a few called me a racist. Morgan Job bleated: “If Selwyn Cudjoe’s racist quota is implemented, UWI will have semi-illiterate African lecturers teaching illiterate students. They will go into the classrooms, the Public Service and police to compound the problems which plague the nation, and are a necessary consequence of the blight of mediocrity we have nurtured and promoted” (Trinidad Guardian, August 21, 2003).

I argued that the university should use an expanded notion of “merit” to select a more diversified student body. I wrote: “There is no reason…to think that if the whole of Central Trinidad received As on their General Certificates of Education that our university should consist exclusively of only people from Central or Laventille for that matter. Serious academicians know that genuine university learning, especially in a multiracial society, cannot take place where only one kind of people and only one kind of culture is present” (“Afro-Trinbagonians, Racism and the Education System,” trinicenter.com, September 19, 2003).

Bhoe Tewarie, the principal of UWI, responded: “We do not ask students what race they belong to. We only ask them what grades they got” (Trinidad Guardian, September 9, 2003). I predicted: “Dr. Tewarie will live to regret his remarks” (Afro-Trinbagonians).

I also countered, “No modern university bases its entrance into university exclusively on the scores one gets on standardized tests…. Although Harvard University has not begun it, many Ivy League schools have begun to deemphasize the importance of standardized tests (such as the SAT examinations) in selecting their first-year students.”

Vindication came about a month ago when Judge Allison D. Burroughs, a Massachusetts judge, ruled in favor of Harvard University’s use of race as a part of its criteria in selecting its first-year students.

In November 2014, Students for Fair Admission (SFA) sued Harvard. It claimed that Harvard College violated federal civil rights law “by holding Asian-Americans, who as a group get better test scores and grades than other races, to a higher standard” (New York Times, October 1, 2019).

SFA made four interrelated claims: “That Harvard intentionally discriminated against Asian-Americans; that it used race as a predominant factor in admissions decisions; that it racially balanced its classes; and that it had considered applicants’ race without first exhausting race-neutral alternatives to create diversity.” President Trump’s Trump’s Department of Justice sided with SFA.

Judge Burroughs ruled that “at least for now, ensuring diversity at Harvard relies, in part, on race-conscious admissions….The students who are admitted to Harvard and choose to attend will live and learn surrounded by all sorts of people, with all sorts of experiences, beliefs and talents. They will have the opportunity to know and understand one another beyond race, as whole individuals with unique histories and experiences. It is this, at Harvard and elsewhere, that will move us, one day, to the point where we see that race is a fact, but not the defining fact and not the fact that tells us what is important, but we are not there yet.”

Tempered by the long and painful process of the suit, President Lawrence Bacow, wrote to alumni and friends: “Harvard College’s admissions process aims to evaluate each individual as a whole person. The consideration of race, alongside many other factors, helps us achieve our goal of creating a diverse student body that enriches the education of every student. Everyone admitted to Harvard College has something unique to offer our community, and today we reaffirm the importance of diversity-and everything it represents to the world.”

When I fought that lonely battle sixteen years ago, I admonished fellow educators: “While we genuflect at the shrine of grades we ignore the imperative to educate our secondary- and tertiary-level students to act in ways that conduce to their moral upliftment. In genuflecting before grades and jockeying for positions of power and prestige we forget to develop the capacity for moral discernment in our students and our leaders” (Afro-Trinbagonians).

Two weeks before Justice Burroughs made her ruling I criticized the prime minister for selecting 33 Indo-Trinidadians (out of 35 students) for a national mentorship program in energy (“Misplaced Philanthropy”). The PM justified his action by arguing “Indo-Trinidadians can mount no successful argument of ethnic under-representation or of being discriminated against on any sector of the society since factual evidence is to the contrary.”

I suggested that three major considerations should have gone into the selection of those students: “how well it allows us to achieve our economic objectives, develop a balanced workforce, and conduce to social harmony. It is not socially desirable for 90 percent of our physicians to be Indo- or Afro-Tobagonians no matter how good they are.”

Although we shy away from it, it is retrogressive to leave out the “race” factor when we make judgments about our work force and education system. President Bacow insists: “Diversity of all kinds creates remarkable opportunities and complex challenges. If we hope to make the world better [if we hope to make T&T better], we must both pursue those opportunities and confront those challenges, motivated always by humility, generosity and openness.”

Race is a factor of life in T&T. It makes no sense to act as though it is an unfortunate circumstance of our society. It would help if we recognize its reality and take it into consideration when we make decisions about creating a society in which each of us finds an equal place.

15 Responses to “Diversity Matters”


  • This article assumes that African kids are intellectually inferior and need a “hand up” to get into university. Since the time of Eric the PNM has funded black education to universities. Former Prime Minister Mr. Manning had a $50 million secret scholarship program which gave black children a “hand up” to reach where no other race in TnT could reach.

    I agree with professor Cudjoe we must help this less fortunate segment of our society. The united negro college in the US has improved the lives of thousands of black children with scholarships and bursaries, pulling them away from drugs and gang culture.

    UWI can offer courses on Pan, African dance, Ebonics, social injustices as elective whilst targeting or reserving space for black children.

  • It would be much more productive and beneficial to improve the secondary system of education with the definite goal of improving the grades of African students rather than “lowering “standards to qualify them for university entrance.

    If the race factor is included to make judgments about university entrance, there will be personal and subjective biases and preferences, especially in a society like T&T.

  • Giving one person preference over another because of their ethnic or racial status instead of their performance, achievement and qualifications is moving towards a quota based system.

    Any time a program exists that allows someone to obtain a position in a school or a workplace, a foundation of race-based stereotypes can be built.

    Diversity for the sake of having it provides little benefit to a school or business.

  • We have seen many imbalances that needs to be addressed. Empirical evidences suggest that over 90% of the army is Afro Trini, 75% of the police force is Afro Trini, 85% of the coast guard is Afro Trini, 85% of the fire service Afro Trini, 90% of government housing goes to Afro Trini and 75% of the public service Afro Trini.

    These imbalances affect performance and explains why our Institutions are failing. In fact all state enterprises record loss except for those in energy. And even there the mismanagement of the economy is sinking the nation. “ Two weeks before Justice Burroughs made her ruling I criticized the prime minister for selecting 33 Indo-Trinidadians (out of 35 students) for a national mentorship program in energy (“Misplaced Philanthropy”)”
    As well you should, but why are you so silent on the other imbalances within the nation? All yardstick must be equal and thus requires a better methodology in ethnic hiring with the government services. I favor a quota system based on the nation ethic composition. For instance the army, police, fire service, coast guard must seek to bring about transformation by hiring more Indians in these service. I remember when I applied to be a police officer, I passed all exams, then the interview. I was being interviewed by 5 Afro Trinis. Guess what I didn’t get the call, coincidence?

    To create a justice society we must address these historical imbalances as former Prime Minister Patrick Manning once said. The marginalization of indians must be corrected. Here every creed and race finds an equal place requires a new social construct. If 90% of the indo doctors are not desirable why would 90% of Afros in the Army acceptable?

    • You said:”We have seen many imbalances that needs to be addressed. Empirical evidences suggest that over 90% of the army is Afro Trini, 75% of the police force is Afro Trini, 85% of the coast guard is Afro Trini, 85% of the fire service Afro Trini, 90% of government housing goes to Afro Trini and 75% of the public service Afro Trini.”

      If your percentages are true, can you state why there are/were so few Indians in these sectors?

      • These are historical imbalances started at the end of colonialism. The PNM was aggressive and excessive in their manipulations of power, stacking every State enterprise and government institutions with AfroTrinis. Who simply use (1) position, (2) names of the people hiring. Indian names were easily recognizable, (3) hired mainly family and friends (4) inside request for those already in army was accepted. They assumed Indians were weak but as can be seen in this video far cry from it https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SOPblJzi46w

        The plan of the PNM was to maintain power in perpetuity by group domination. It worked well, as soon as they won election in 2015, they started to restructuring, getting rid of thousands of UNC supporters hired by the KPB administration. One may say the PNM was a blight on this nation and continues to be, just look at how many people loss their jobs since 2015.

        • And please, also tell us why Indians are not on our national football team.

          • Next you go ask why no Indians in the cricket team, opps there is!
            My neighbour was the Diego Maradona from the south and went very far in the football league. Could have made the nation team, he was a great player but again you know what happened.

          • Mamoo said: “My neighbour was the Diego Maradona from the south and went very far in the football league. Could have made the nation team, he was a great player but again you know what happened.”

            I do not believe we know the same things. Please, tell us what happened to that and other Indian players.

  • The superiority of Africans in sports is universal and based on physical attributes, perpetual interest, traditions and sometimes with the help of steroids. These are well known universal truths, making T&T no different from other countries.

    The stacking of Africans in every government institution in T&T by successive PNM governments is also an established truth for decades.The defence that Indians have traditionally not shown an interest in these jobs is also a debunked myth. Indians did not even bother to try after repeated rebuffs.

    • You said: “The stacking of Africans in every government institution in T&T by successive PNM governments is also an established truth for decades.The defence that Indians have traditionally not shown an interest in these jobs is also a debunked myth.”

      What debunked myth? Apparently, history and facts are irrelevant when you all are quite comfortable with lies.

  • A lecturer in a South African University wrote an expressive message to his students at the doctorate, masters and bachelors level and placed it at the entrance of the college.
    I believe that it resonates with us everywhere. More often than not we are not mindful of how the things we consider to be little could destroy our society.
    He wrote, “Collapsing any Nation does not require use of Atomic bombs or the use of Long range missiles. But it requires lowering the quality of Education and allowing cheating in the exams by the students.
    The patient dies in the hands of the doctor who passed his exams through cheating.
    And the buildings collapse in the hands of an engineer who passed his exams through cheating.
    And the money is lost in the hands of an accountant who passed his exams through cheating.
    And humanity dies in the hands of a religious scholar who passed his exams through cheating.
    And justice is lost in the hands of a judge who passed his exams through cheating.
    And ignorance is rampant in the minds of children who are under the care of a teacher who passed exams through cheating.
    The collapse of education is the collapse of the Nation”

  • To expose a lie one must provide evidence to the contrary.
    Show your evidence in a truthful, scientific manner and all lies and assumptions will be withdrawn.

    • Why don’t YOU and Mamoo show your “evidence in a truthful, scientific manner” in support of your claims?

      I have addressed this in the past and Raffique Shah has also written enough to help refute these claims. Let us see if others have read enough of our history to be able to respond. I’ll give a clue… these claims are generally not true.

  • Specific evidence with regard to the percentages of Indians in public institutions were presented.

    Do you have information to the contrary?
    Are you suggesting that this information is false?
    Please present your data.

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