An Unethical Dis(Invite)

By Dr. Selwyn R. Cudjoe
September 27, 2015

Dr. Selwyn R. CudjoeThe University of the West Indies (UWI) has produced many distinguished scholars and thinkers who have served the Caribbean and the world. Dr. Keith Rowley, the most recent example, was elected to one of the highest offices in Trinidad and Tobago. Yet there remain pockets of discrimination and racism within UWI that need to be eradicated immediately.

On August 30 Dr. J. Vijay Maharaj, a UWI lecturer at Department of Literary, Cultural and Communication Studies, invited me to address a conference, “Seepersad & Sons: Naipaulian Creative Synergies” at the end of October. I thanked her and asked what she would like me to speak about.

She responded: “Given your work on Sir Vidia and on Caribbean Literature, the committee thought that you would be able to address any and perhaps all of the items on the CPF….The conference is one about honoring a family that has contributed much to our self-understanding. I would suggest therefore that locating their work in relation to the Caribbean intellectual tradition would make for a grand address.”

Gratified by Dr. Maharaj’s interest, I suggested that I locate the Naipauls within the Caribbean intellectual tradition “or Trinidad and Tobago’s intellectual tradition [which] seems an exciting prospect.” We agreed to meet on September 9 to continue our discussion.
On September 2 I received a disturbing request from Dr. Maharaj. It read: “The committee has tasked me with the not very pleasant but I suppose necessary task of asking about remuneration you would require for delivering this address.” The committee consists of Professors Kenneth Ramchand, Brinsley Samaroo and Paula Morgan. I told her the honorarium I receive for lectures but added that we could speak about it when we met.

I never asked nor was I offered an honorarium. In her initial letter Dr. Maharaj made it clear: “We are unable to afford paying the bills that would ensure this [your appearance] happens. I hope that it is nonetheless possible for you to attend and we can certainly offer you room and board.” Those were the conditions under which I accepted the invitation.

The committee had its agenda. On September 4, Dr. Maharaj responded: “Unfortunately the decision of the committee at a meeting yesterday was that there is no money to pay for an address. Some members have therefore been tasked with approaching a few suitably prominent locally-resident persons.” Such deceptive behavior is unacceptable and unethical.

The committee will find a local person to speak about the place of the Naipauls within Trinidad and Tobago’s intellectual tradition. But one would have hoped it would have welcomed the expertise of one of the most knowledgeable scholars in this area rather than dis-invite him. My book on Naipaul (V. S. Naipaul) is held in over 618 libraries throughout the world (OCLC WorldCat). Selwyn Ryan described Beyond Boundaries, my book on Trinidad and Tobago Intellectual culture of the 19th century, as “encyclopedic” and “a major literary tour de force” (Express, July 25, 2004).

Currently I am completing a biography on William Hardin Burnley, the largest slaveholder in Trinidad and Tobago’s history. In the spring 2013, I was awarded a professorial fellowship at University College London, the fourth most prestigious university in the world, to continue my study on Burnley. A few months ago the editor of Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (UK) asked me to complete a 900-word entry on Burnley’s life for its publication. As a result, Burnley’s name will be added to one of the most important collections in the world.

No academic field can grow if it insulates itself from the larger currents of ideas within its field. Oliver Sacks, “the poet-laureate of medicine,” in speaking of his scientific interaction with Francis Crick, the Nobel Laureate in Physiology or Medicine (1962), wrote that the latter gave him a deeper sense of science “as a communal enterprise, of scientists as a fraternal, international community, sharing and thinking on each other’s work, and of Crick himself as a sort of hub, in touch with everyone in the neuroscientific world” (On the Move, 346). Like the sciences, the humanities profit from international exchanges of ideas.

We must condemn these insensitive and unethical gestures. They do not contribute to expanding our educational horizons nor advancing cultural co-operation.

8 thoughts on “An Unethical Dis(Invite)”

  1. See? I can understand Dr. Cudjoe’s position as an intellectual and a man of class and stature trying to maintain a level of civility and decency buttttttt this is an example off the classless, stink unethical nature of “The Caste Mind”…..the group 8f people you are dealing with do NOT care about class…only CASTE! It is a defining characteristic of these boat brahmins that distinguishes the intellectual, upwardly mobile class of african people…they will sacrifice their public image to satisfy the base instinct of their group….Dr. Cudjoe is hated and they want to “get him” by any means necessary!
    We all heard about the placing of winston dookeran’s nephew as head of the central bank ahead of the two senior economists above him in rank and qualification (they were both deputy governors and africans who had doctorates and published articles in their field of economics) and we’ve seen the crisis with foreign exchange and other issues…Dr. Cudjoe was on the central bank board when kamla came in office in 2010 along with others…do u now what tanty kamla did? They swamped the board with double more appointees than were there at the time….they are barbarians in their mentality and cannot be efficiently stood up to with political correctness and politeness…my view!

  2. What about the late PNM stalwart Rose Janniere? She was ill with cancer and went to a private hospital in South Trinidad (Dr.Cudjoe was present) and after waiting on the doctor for hours, when they enquired to the receptionist why their wait was so ridiculously long…they were informed that the doctor had deliberately slipped out earlier with the snide remark “I Eh Helping No PNM!”…so the doctor not only was political in who he treated and didn’t, but he chose to lull the ill woman i to a false sense of hope in getting assistance…THAT is the thpical caste mind all over T&T’s institutions…hindu ethucs is right!

    1. If this did happen, and I’m persuaded that it must have, then surely there is a lawyer somewhere amongst the teeming supply of such Professionals who ought to seek to redress this crime against a sick Trinidadian–even pro bono–if only to let the World know that the Island is not so uncivilised.

      1. She passed away since then. Also, there is a perception that the indian/hindus medical,and wider professional community bans together to protect misdeeds. Hindu/indian/political loyalties are also perceived to trump professional integrity. There is actually supposed to be a medical organization…i’m not sure how it is spelled. .i think it is I.M.P.A.T.T….or M.P.A.T.T. maybe the ‘I’ is “Silent”…anyway there is organization that is supposed to be for doctors in T&T, butttt many people have asked me if it is merely an arm of the UNC and the maha sabha.

    2. Dear Alyssa

      If what you say about the Doctor above is true, this is something that should be taken to the medical state board. If that Doctor qualified abroad, then the university he attended and the state board in the country where he qualified should be notified. The intention should be to have him stricken from the record. The Hippocratic oath taken by Doctors prevents them from refusing medical attention to anyone. This Doctor regardless of his political affiliation, should not be practicing medicine anywhere in the world.

      1. not ‘if’… it happened! And ms. Janneire is now deceased! T&T is a turd world country! How will it be proven? Do you believe the secretary will testify? she might end up like narinesingh’s wife… T&T is a turd world society where doctors (false paper quacks) literally get away with butchering and murder! Daily! For decades! see how many botched, unnecessary caesareans? what about the number of mothers and newborns dying…ih and by the way…according to Ravindranath Maraj in his book “Death Of A Guru”, the sacrificing of children is a well kept secret in the indian community (hindus)…according to him, they will never admit it to outsiders…

  3. Honorariums are an important way of saying we really appreciate the time you took to be with us. Recently I was paid $300 for attending and participating in an event. It was the family way of saying they appreciated my presence.

    UWI should have a set amount set aside for honorariums, it is the least they can do for someone taking the time to come and norish the minds of those in academia. I find third world people don’t consider this important enough and it gets to be annoying.

    If they don’t have funds which is quite possible then charge a $5 fee that will go towards the lecturer. But please don’t send someone away with an empty hand it is unethical.

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