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Head of the University of the West Indies Open Campus Saint Lucia Dr. Veronica Simon has added her voice to the ongoing debate concerning statements made by Lecturer and Political Scientist Dr. Tennyson Joseph during a lecture organised by the Open Campus recently.
Dr. Joseph had opined against what he said was the rise of business politicians, pointing to United States President Donald Trump and St. Lucia’s Prime Minister Allen Chastanet, as examples.
Chastanet in a response to Dr. Joseph’s remarks said that while he believes that the lecturer has the right to an opinion, the lecturer has been the writer of several “racist” articles and it is a surprise that he was been allowed to continue to lecture students.
“Those were some of the same things that he was saying about being a white man and all this previously. And we’ve seen several articles written by Mr. Tennyson which I think are racist, and I am really surprised that the University of the West Indies has not called him out on that and that he would continue to be allowed to teach students in that area,” Chastanet said.
However, Dr. Simon told HTS News4orce that Dr. Joseph’s comments are all in stride with the university’s goal to cultivate students who can critically examine issues and raise the level of discourse in St. Lucia.
“…And that’s what we teach students, we teach them to research, we teach them argument …This is not a healthy situation for a developing country. Here we are trying to teach students that we need to raise the level of discourse. We need to understand how discourse operates; that people have points of view that, you respect other persons’ points of view, and you can differ, but you can differ respectfully and so on… And you teach them how to debate. You can’t have a learning institution where you only teach prescribed and approved …curriculum otherwise you’re just raising a nation of sheep,” she said in Dr. Joseph’s defense.
Dr. Simon further stated, “A university is not a primary school. A university is a place of higher learning. It’s an environment of academic freedom. And when you have a tenured lecturer like Dr. Joseph he has the academic freedom to express his informed opinions, his academically informed opinions, and that’s how all universities work.”
She drew a comparison between Dr. Joseph’s statements and wrongful conclusions about coconut oil in the past, which was later debunked following research.
“That is what academic freedom is about. Now, you’ re not going to chastise the person who said it was bad for you and say well he should be fired or whatever, because he said that. That was his right as an academic to present his research as he saw it even if it has been debunked later,” Dr. Simon said.
“So if Dr. Joseph has said something that needs to be debunked, somebody else, another academic, or even the non-academic or anybody who wishes to write and speak can debunk it and say ‘well he’s not making sense because of X,Y and Z and here is my argument… I am presenting my line of logic and you can see that there is a flaw in his logic and a flaw in his argument,” she said.
She later added, “If we didn’t have people at places like universities, giving views, examining things critically, and that’s what they do, they give a critical appraisal of things as they see them from their own perspective in terms of the area of expertise, we would not have any progress in critical areas like science and medicine and social sciences and education…,” she stated.