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May 27, 2014

UWI Vice Chancellor says it’s not about Freedom of Speech

E. Nigel Harris

In the aftermath of the termination of Dr. Brendan Bain’s contract, as head of the Caribbean HIV/AIDS Regional Training Program at the University of the West Indies, there has been a rash of protests across the region, particularly in Jamaica and Belize where avid supporters of the professor have taken to the streets to demonstrate.  On Friday, a group, including laypeople and attorneys, stood in protest at Battlefield Park during the lunch hour.  The uproar succeeds Bain’s removal for having testified in the existing UNIBAM challenge where Executive Director Caleb Orozco is seeking a repeal of Section 53 of Belize’s Criminal Code which criminalizes sex between persons of the same gender.  Like other supporters on UWI’s Mona Campus, their mouths were sealed with signs admonishing the LGBT community.  While the Belize Council of Churches has written Vice Chancellor Professor E. Nigel Harris regarding Bain’s dismissal, the Jamaica Bar Association has expressed deep concerns over its implication on freedom of speech.  In an interview conduct in the Jamaican media, Professor Harris explains that the decision was the result of lengthy deliberations on the matter.

 

Prof. E. Nigel Harris, Vice Chancellor, UWI

“I want to make clear, because I think there may some misconceptions out there; this is about a single program. It is separate, the university manages it, but this is not an issue about Professor Bain’s academic freedom. If he were a member of the academic community, he is now retired, but if he were a member of the academic community, this would have no impact on his academic standing. This is not about his rights to give testimony; this is not about his rights as a Christian; this is not about the views that he might hold. This is about someone having a position in a program, which the university has being contracted to manage and really losing the confidence of an important sector of the people that that program has reached as well as I believe, the confidence of a number of other public health officials in terms of his credibility as a leader. It is the question as leadership of a particular program.”

 

Reporter

“Let me ask you though, because one of the concerns, as stated by one of the protestors outside your office right now, is can you really separate the two—meaning his removal from this position and the issue of academic freedom of expression. Is not the message being sent that sure, you are free to speak, you are free to research, you are free to give testimony, but if what you say write or testify to is not acceptable to certain groups, we are going to remove you from leadership positions?”

 

Prof. E. Nigel Harris

“No. The analogy gives us…you are leading a group, the CHART group; the purpose of which is to reach communities that have HIV/AIDS and in fact, attempting to stop the epidemic of HIV/AIDS. A central tenant of people working with HIV/AIDS is that stigmatization, discrimination and by extension the criminalization of men having sex with men are contrary to that fight against HIV/AIDS.”

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2 Responses for “UWI Vice Chancellor says it’s not about Freedom of Speech”

  1. carlanga says:

    Mr. Harris is trying to save face. The professor has his own convictions, but what he testified was out of scientific data, if Mr. Harris can dispute that the scientific data or methods that was used is wrong, which he has to determine with his own research. Then he should be questioning those same research, here he is questioning more the man that is doing the research vs the beneficiaries. The beneficiaries will always have a perception, but if we are to remove people because they have lost the confidence as you say Mr. Harris. The people has lost the confidence in you ALSO on not being able to stand for defending Dr. Bain, we have lost the confidence in you, please write UWI to also remove you as well and let us see how u defend yourself.

  2. CEO says:

    People are blinded by ignorance and religion!

    The only problem with this is that what the professor did was irresponsible and the science and his research does not support the statement he made. This is unethical

    Professionals, especially those at the helm of a major research project, that the world is grappling with right now should only state facts and figures.

    Religious people too often deals with emotions and their misguided interpretations of the scriptures. Time and time again in the bible the Lord sat with the outcast of the society, not once did he deny anyone their human rights and encouraged others the to treat anyone like they were less of a human even though he did not always agree with many. Practice what you preach!

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