Bain issue not about academic freedom – commentary

Published: May 29, 2014

The issue of the University of the West Indies’ (UWI’s) termination of the short-term contract of Professor Brendan Bain is not at all about academic freedom. Those who say that it is are misinformed, with perhaps a few who are simply being opportunistic. It is not even about whether the statement in Bain’s court testimony was true or untrue. At the core, it is about a programme leader publicly undermining the very programme and principles he was mandated to support. By his words and action, he voluntarily aligned himself with and gave endorsement to, a diametrically opposed, unacceptable message on an issue of grave import for the UWI.

The essence of the harm, therefore, more so than the content of the words that Professor Bain spoke, is the fact that an authoritative leader of the UWI, spoke with one voice with a litigant party whose purpose and objectives are in direct conflict with the policies of CHART and the UWI. This litigant clearly advocates the retention of a discriminatory regime that excludes persons from enjoying rights of equality on the basis of their sexual orientation. Consequently, the testimony instantly became associated with the UWI in deeply negative and enduring ways, placing deep question marks on the UWI’s integrity and on its public commitment, not only to progressive notions of public health and HIV programming, but more fundamentally, to nondiscrimination, equal opportunity, justice and human rights.

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