Rob Sequin | Havana Journal
Much of the content of this article comes from an email to supporters from Director Dr Stephen Wilkinson. The University is planning to cut funding to the Center for Caribbean and Latin American Research and Consultancy however, apparently students and supporters are successfully resisting the closure of the Center.
The proposed closing of one of the few Caribbean studies degree programs in the United Kingdom (UK) has been met with petitions and protests by the university students.
London Metropolitan University plans to slash more than two-thirds of its existing degrees after it was found in 2009 to have defrauded the government of millions of pounds in false claims.
Four petitions, two generated by students online, have so far garnered more than 1,000 signatures in support of retaining Caribbean studies and other courses under threat.
One anonymous contributor at an online petition, entitled Say No to Closure of Caribbean Studies@Metropolitan University, stated this month:
“Caribbean studies is a vital part of humanities, history, literature, equity studies, politics and social studies. Caribbean studies belong in every western university!” the same complainant noted on the petition, found on the ipetitions.com website.
The Caribbean Studies Students Movement initiated the petition, stating that “very few are aware of the integral role the Caribbean has played in the privileges we have and take for granted today.”
“Fewer still understand the impact the region has had on Western civilization and thus the world today,” the petition reads.
The petition evokes Caribbean thinkers as Jamaican poet Louise Bennett, Trinidad historian Cyril Lionel Robert (CLR) James, Jamaican feminist Una Marson and Barbadian playwright Edward Kamau Brathwaite, among others.
Rebecca Ross, an honors student, signed the electronic petition, stating that that it was “appalling” that London Metropolitan University was “betraying its history, employees and future students.”
Danielle Chevannes signed the petition this month asking that Caribbean studies be expanded and incorporated into the UK curriculum from primary school.
“I was a young black lady with little knowledge of the depth of the cultural, religious, political and historical background of the Caribbean region, where I am from,” Chevannes wrote. “I have gained a passion and lifelong interest to learn more about the Caribbean,” she said.
Former student Deborah Carr signed the petition, stating, “Caribbean studies enriched my understanding of the world we live in and it would be a great loss if the course was axed.”
Juanita Cox, who is doing a PhD as a result of the support from the Caribbean Studies department, posted on her petition contribution, “given that London is the home to a large Caribbean-British community, it is outrageous that the University should consider closing down the department.”
Alison Watson on 4 May wrote in support of the petition: “Another slap in the face for the Caribbean community, many of whom were born here and have strong links to the region.”
“One of my parents is from the Caribbean. I was born and educated in England,” stated Sonya Robertson on 27 April. “It was only when I took the Introduction to the Caribbean module at London Met that I finally learned about the history of not only my ancestors but also a major part of British history.”
Director of the Centre for Caribbean and Latin American Research and Consultancy
Letter from Norman Girvan
Here is a summary of the text from a letter sent to
Mr Clive Jones, CBE
Board of Governors
London Metropolitan University
Professor Malcolm Gillies
Vice Chancellor, London Metropolitan University
Dr John Gabriel
Acting Dean, HALE
London Metropolitan University
Norman Girvan, PhD Econ., (Lund.); B.Sc. Econ. (Lond-UCWI); D.Univ. Hon.(Lond. Met.); D.Econ. Hon. (U. H.); C.D.
University of the West Indies
Formerly Professor of Development Studies and Director of the Sir Arthur Lewis Institute of Development Studies, University of the West Indies and former Secretary General, Association of Caribbean States
It is with shock and great dismay that I have learnt of the decision to eliminate Caribbean Studies from the programme at London Metropolitan University. When I was conferred with the degree of Doctor of the University Honoris Causa in 2002, I said that I accepted the honour not for myself but as a symbol of the University’s recognition of the enormous contribution that Caribbeans and persons of Caribbean descent have made to British life and to world affairs in fields as varied as literature, the arts, politics, humanities and the social sciences, sports, music, health and education. Names spring to mind like C.L.R. James, George Padmore, Dr. Eric Williams, Lord Constantine, Marcus Garvey, Nobel Laureates Sir Arthur Lewis—first Black Professor of Economics at a British university—Derek Walcott and Sir Vidia Naipaul; Sir Frank Worrell and Sir Garfield Sobers; Lord Pitt, Stuart Hall, Baroness Scotland and Baroness Amos; Steel Pulse and Mutabaruka; and John La Rose; to name only a few. To drop Caribbean Studies amounts to a form of cultural expunging from London Metropolitan’s intellectual landscape of this integral component of British life and history that will deprive students, both of Caribbean origin and those of other backgrounds, of access to this rich heritage.
I very much fear that if this decision stands, it will render inappropriate my continuing to be holder of your Honorary Degree, as much as I cherish it.
Just last week, in delivering the C.L.R. James Memorial Lecture of the Oilfields Workers Trade Union here in Trinidad, I noted that CLR James was arguably, one of the outstanding personalities of the 20th century. In a life that spanned nine of the century’s decades he embraced most of its great social movements with passion, eloquence, and brilliant insights. His impact extended far beyond his native Trinidad and Tobago to the entire Caribbean, Britain, the Soviet Union, the United States and Africa. To some, CLR is best known for his tireless struggles against, colonialism, imperialism, racism and Stalinism; inspired by an overarching and infectious vision of the possibilities of establishing a just, human and participatory society. Others will remember him for the scope of his knowledge and appreciation of literature and philosophy, and for his ability to illuminate their relationship to politics and the worker day world. For many, he is quite simply the best writer and cricket and society that the game has ever known. No one exposed to him or his work is ever quite the same again.”
While I understand the pressures under which you and other universities are labouring; may I respectfully suggest that the decision is misguided, misinformed and short-sighted and I very much hope that you will find just cause in reconsidering and reversing it.