Last update: 11-Dec-2013 4:05 am
Wednesday, December 11, 2013
Trinidad & Tobago Guardian Online
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No politics involved, says UWI principal
Prof Clement Sankat, principal of the University of the West Indies’ (UWI) St Augustine campus, says the decision not to renew Dr Wayne Kublalsingh’s part-time contract was not politically motivated. “The system was challenged, and it had nothing to do with politics,” he said yesterday by phone. He said Kublalsingh was never on the permanent staff, and there were hundreds of part-time lecturers with similar contracts at the university.
“Those can be easily terminated,” he said. Sankat said he was told by the head of the literature department, Dr Louis Regis, that students had to be the first priority.
Last year, Kublalsingh missed several classes when he was involved in a 21-day hunger strike over the construction of the Debe to Mon Desir segment of the Solomon Hochoy Highway extension to Point Fortin. Sankat said since that time, changes had been made to the teaching schedule to accommodate Kublalsingh’s absence, and those changes have continued into the new academic year. Sankat said the head of department is responsible for assigning teachers to courses.
“The head of department had to do what he had to do,” he said. Meanwhile, in response, Kublalsingh said he had no hard feelings toward UWI for letting him go, but there could have been some discussion with him about its concerns, before the “unilateral” dismissal. “I think the university had a decision to make and they made it...They probably could have consulted with me before,” he said.
He said he did not feel disappointed, as the university had always been good to him, but felt UWI should have come to him first before a decision was made. “They never invited me to meetings about it...They made a unilateral decision,” he said. Three weeks ago when Kublalsingh called the literature department for his teaching schedule, he said he was told to contact Regis. During a meeting that also included lecturer Dr Elizabeth Jackson, Regis told Kublalsingh he had decided not to renew his contract.
“He said they were afraid I might be a risk to the university,” Kublalsingh said. Asked what that meant, Kublalsingh said if he ever got arrested he would then miss his classes. Although Kublalsingh has publicly promised to protest outside the Office of the Prime Minister in St Clair until May 2015 over the highway extension, he said he would have considered giving up one day of protest each week to make it to his Introduction to Poetry class.
He told the T&T Guardian yesterday that he had asked Regis and Jackson during the meeting about possibly teaching again in January for the second semester, and the response was: “We will see.” Asked if that was promising, he said he could not interpret their reply.
Kublalsingh said he would miss his students, as they had taught him a lot as well.
Some past students have expressed mixed feelings about Kublalsingh’s dismissal, saying they were sad to see him go, but understood the university’s position. Year three student Sasha Hosein, 26, recalled meeting Kublalsingh on the first day of Intro to Poetry back in 2012, saying she was the first student to arrive, and he was already there waiting.
“It was just the two of us and he approached me and asked ‘What’s your name? What’s your major? Who are your favourite poets?’” she recalled, saying she was a bit nervous. “But that’s the kind of teacher he was. Minus all the hype surrounding him, he was a passionate and attentive teacher,” she said. Kublalsingh has been in and out of the news for more than a year now, as he continues to protest the construction of the Debe to Mon Desir segment of the highway.
During the hunger strike last year, Hosein admitted Kublalsingh had missed many classes (she was no longer a student of his), but said some students were “annoyed” about it. “He was never there. That had put them off. But really, I never came across any student who didn’t like him,” she said.
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