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Bhoe: The Blessed One

July 08, 2001
By Selwyn R. Cudjoe

HISTORY may cite the beginning of T&T's modernity as the day ANR Robinson gave Basdeo Panday the two seats he needed to take over the country. Anyone who observes the carryings-on of the UNC realises that during its tenure, every last shred of morality, decency and integrity has vanished from the land. Yesterday, another member of that organisational cadre was expected to be inserted into the heart of a social institution that is supposed to instil values of morality, decency and integrity; encourage the quest for truth; and promote freedom of enquiry. As in everything else, the lives of students and faculty, to paraphrase Thorstein Veblen, will be reduced to its economic necessity, bereft of anything else that marks them as moral or ethical beings. In this new dispensation, amorality will be the sine-qua-non of existence. Everything will have a price; nothing will have a value.

Bhoe Tewarie is in line for the position of Principal of UWI (St Augustine). If this happens, integrity will reign, meritocracy will prevail and the university will achieve new heights of excellence. With an assurance undergirded by conviction, I will tell my niece who will enroll at UWI in September, "Study hard darling. Your academic brilliance will get you through. Just emulate the life and career of your principal and everything will be fine. He represents the acme of academic excellence, the epitome of social commitment, and the touchstone of disinterested scholarship."

I wish I could tell her those reassuring things. If I did, I would be lying. Dr Tewarie is the antithesis of all those ideals; the worst thing that could happen to our university. He is an academic pretender bedecked in scholarly armour.

Dr Tewarie received his doctorate from Pennsylvania State University, a third-rate US university. After writing a dissertation on VS Naipaul and Saul Bellow, he returned to the Caribbean. It is widely believed that it was through the graciousness of Marjorie Thorpe, his friend and mentor, he received an appointment at UWI (St Augustine). When he became a minister in the NAR government it would seem that he reciprocated and Thorpe became T&T's ambassador to the UN. At UWI, his career was short-lived. Politics took him to government. He never became anything higher than a lecturer.

Thus we are faced with the first anomaly: a principal designate whose academic status never went beyond that of a lecturer. Now, he will make critical decisions about scholars who attained the rank of full professor and distinguished themselves in their fields. I wonder how Vice Principal Bridget Brereton and Gordon Rohlehr, scholars of international reputation, feel about his appointment? They were nurtured in a climate where scholarship matters and academic excellence were supreme virtues.

But we ought not to speak too quickly. Bhoe, the Blessed, if he gets the job, is being plucked from his esteemed position as director of the Institute of Business to rule over a larger domain. This man does not have a terminal degree in business (an MBA) nor is he an economist. He is not a known captain of industry, has not grown a business to prosperity, and does not have a track record of solving business problems. His only claim to fame: he reengineered the Cabinet and took them on a retreat.

How did he become the director of a Business Institute? Someone decreed that he was the only person who could head the institute. The friendships he cultivated were the keys to his success.

Is this a matter then of the advantages of brown-nosing? When Robbie kicked Panday out of his government, Tewarie—ever loyal to whoever delivers the bacon—promised to deliver the Indian vote to NAR. Even Tewarie underestimated Panday's astuteness. When Panday came back into power, it was just a matter of awaiting the correct opportunity to kiss, who knows where, and make up for past indiscretions. No wonder Trevor Sudama has little use for such neemakarams. They are Harrilals come lately.

The appointment of this non-academic and unaccomplished businessperson will have serious effects on the academic direction of our society. In Under Man and the Development of his Faculties, Adolphe Quetelet claimed that society "prepares the crime and...the guilty person is only the instrument who executes it". Thus, people who murder—like those who steal elections—are only fulfilling a quota that has been preset by social conditions. In other words, the criteria UNC is putting into place for success—from airport contracts to the selection of principals—will not only change the rules of the game; they have become the rules of the game.

Recently, The Economist observed: "In societies were advancement is on merit and seemingly open to everyone, regardless of class, race, creed or sex, unequal outcomes ought not to be a cause for concern." However, when outcomes are preset, achievements are based on non-performance, and rewards are given on questionable merit, the "explosion" of which Errol McLeod speaks ought not to be treated as an outrageous outburst from a disturbed person. The Economist also acknowledged the possibility of an "explosive" (their word) situation when "the poor lose their jobs, their houses, even their families" in a society in which inequality prevails and economic unfairness characterises the behaviour of ruling Aryans.

Bhoe's ascendancy will signal the end of a vital intellectual tradition (started by the Lloyd Brathwaithes, the Lloyd Bests and the Breretons) and ushers in an era of mediocrity and curry flavourism. It undermines any claim we make for academic excellence and saps the university of its potential to direct the nation to higher intellectual heights.

In an age when knowledge and knowledge-based economies hold the key to a nation's survival, Tewarie's appointment would be a kick in the rear for serious-minded students and achievement-driven scholars.

The new beau

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