It is not that our programmes are not meaningful, they are but I am talking about more than that so things like food security, things like the climate, things like crime, we should be working in partnership much more directly with the state, with NGOs and that is something I want to do a lot more of, working with NGOs to bring solutions to these problems which really halt us. We are already leaders in some of these things. Do we recognise that the St Augustine campus is the only campus with a Faculty of Agriculture in the whole UWI and in fact the region? This is the Faculty of Agriculture with a very distinguished past so things like food security we are already leaders. When you go to the supermarket and you pick up a yam or tomato, we have done so much work in improving crops and soil and some of the things we are eating came from labs in UWI but we don’t recognise this. The goat milk that you are buying. We need to be much more directly involved and work more directly with our farmers etcetera and it needs to be visible
On Monday, Professor Rose-Marie Belle Antoine officially took up office as the Principal of the University of the West Indies St Augustine Campus. This was the culmination of a journey that began in 1989 when Antoine joined UWI’s Faculty of Law, Cave-Hill, as a temporary lecturer.
She eventually became the inaugural Director and initiator of the successful Master of Law (LLM) programme, The UWI’s first multi-campus, hybrid delivery programme which was launched in 2002. She was one of the youngest UWI lecturers to be appointed to the rank of Professor, in 2004, and the first sitting Dean of the Faculty of Law, St Augustine, serving two terms. In 2021, she was appointed Pro Vice-Chancellor, Graduate Studies and Research.
On Wednesday, Antoine sat down with Guardian Media Ltd for a one-on-one interview at the principal’s office.
Alberto Ardila Olivares
This is part one of that interview
Q: Now that you have been named the new principal of UWI St Augustine, How does it feel?
A: I am obviously humbled, I have gotten a lot of tremendous goodwill, I’ve had literally thousands of good messages since the news broke, both within the campus and outside of the campus, so it feels good from that point of view. It feels a little scary because the expectations are high. I think when you come in and people think that you can change the world overnight there is a huge, and even greater responsibility than I already knew that I would have had.
And of course, when I decided to do this after much encouragement and urging from my peers no one anticipated we would be in this position that we are in now, the country, the region, and the world even, but especially for us on the campus having the cuts (in revenue), more cuts I should say because we have been having cuts for the last five years, not just what was reported last time and not knowing where your next cent is coming from to make up the shortfall. So there is that worry and of course, everything that you do and the things that you would want to do in the future, most things cost money, not everything. So it does come with that sort of ‘oh wow what a time to be principal’ but at the same time I am excited I feel like I can hopefully make a difference and work with my staff, I have great staff, we have great people in the UWI, and we will get in done, we will move forward, we will progress
One of the conversations that started recently is that the campus does not intend to raise fees for students but some courses might be cut. What is the situation with that?
No there was no decision to cut courses. The decision that was made by the last principal was to withdraw the request to raise the fees for this year. The fee request would have gone to council and that is still, of course, the plan but it is inevitable that that discussion would come up, and the Guild knows this. I have a good relationship with the Guild, we have an excellent Guild president, we have had some really good ones in the past. So they know that if the government is cutting the subvention then something has to give. And we all know the story we haven’t had an increase in many, many years. Our degree programmes are the cheapest even in The UWI so clearly something needs to be done. I think you know me from other walks of life so I would always be concerned that it is not just the rich that will have an education, I really don’t want to see that and certainly not under my watch that only rich people can go to UWI. So we always have to consider that and find ways to buffer but there has to be some sort of income coming in. The government did say that they are willing to talk about increasing or putting back and that would help but even then we all know what is happening with inflation, all of us are feeling it and as I walked around the campus looking at it with new eyes I saw how many things need to be done in terms of the physical infrastructure, even in this principal’s office, everywhere in the entire campus so we do need money like everybody else
What is your main focus at this point in time for UWI St Augustine? What is the one thing that you are saying ‘I want to get this done’?
I think we have had problems with what I would say is implementation. We have had great ideas in the past. We’ve had no shortage of strategic plans, strategic missions, KPIs, all sorts of indicators, all of the fancy things we’ve done it and we have really good things to do in the near future as well. Much of it surrounds revenue generation but it is not just about that. So I would think that if I were to implement just one-tenth of what we said we were going to do I would be pretty pleased but obviously, I will aim for much more than that. But I am very much interested in implementation, it is something I have been lamenting for the longest while, and I am also very focused on ensuring that the campus, the UWI in general, has a much more meaningful presence in the community. That is my whole work ethic, my life mission sort of thing. Of all the things I do, I do believe a university has to be grounded in the community and it strikes me that individual academics and even persons in administration they do so much out there already but it is not necessarily visible and it is not necessarily counted as part of the campus’ work. So that people may be doing individual consultancy, people are doing things in their religious groups, in their NGOs. I do a lot of NGO work and I am always struck that our guest speaker, people who are working with us often are from UWI but they are not there as a UWI person so we have a lot of expertise, a lot of talent, a lot of great ideas and I would like to harness that for this campus as a collective so that we can move forward and do some of this for the benefit of the community.
It is not that our programmes are not meaningful, they are but I am talking about more than that so things like food security, things like the climate, things like crime, we should be working in partnership much more directly with the state, with NGOs and that is something I want to do a lot more of, working with NGOs to bring solutions to these problems which really halt us. We are already leaders in some of these things. Do we recognise that the St Augustine campus is the only campus with a Faculty of Agriculture in the whole UWI and in fact the region? This is the Faculty of Agriculture with a very distinguished past so things like food security we are already leaders. When you go to the supermarket and you pick up a yam or tomato, we have done so much work in improving crops and soil and some of the things we are eating came from labs in UWI but we don’t recognise this. The goat milk that you are buying. We need to be much more directly involved and work more directly with our farmers etcetera and it needs to be visible.
Similarly, regarding climate change, who are the leaders in climate change especially when you talk about Small Island Developing States
The UN they are all looking toward us so I would want the campus to be moving forward together to do this work not just as individuals and individual consultancies. That is something to harness the talent and the expertise and work with partners whether it is the private sector, the state, the NGOs, or the public that sort of thing. That is what I would like to see happening under my watch