The University of the West Indies (UWI), St Augustine, chose to censor the media’s coverage of the annual general meeting (AGM) of the Campus Council on Tuesday, at the Hilton Trinidad, Port of Spain.
When members of the media attempted to enter the Hilton ballroom where the annual general meeting was held, they were told by a UWI official at the registration desk that they would have to wait outside because although UWI is a public institution, the AGM was private.
St Augustine Campus principal Prof Clement Sankat, the official explained, would only allow the media in during his speech and no questions were to be asked.
A few minutes later, the media were told by William Iton, registrar UWI, Mona, that they would be allowed in for the segment of the AGM in which Sankat delivered his report.
Vice-chancellor E Nigel Harris made his statement and there were remarks from the St Augustine Guild president.
The media were allowed in and Sankat delivered the 2012/2013 annual report, which looked at the strides of UWI, the steps being taken to make the institution world class, as well as alluding to “some challenges” UWI has faced over the period, which Sankat said were raised by Ewart Williams, chairman of the Campus Council, before
the media were allowed to enter the room.
Sankat said UWI already has some of the ingredients of a world-class institution because of its governance structure.
“I think the one that we have best is a very favourable governance structure that is unique in universities around the world because of the regionality of this institution.
“And that regionality does impose a number of checks and balances that allows us to become stronger at what we do and how we do it and, also, strong in our accountability, and that is what this meeting is about this morning—accounting for our stewardship of this campus.
“I want to say, Chair, that last year was a very stellar year; through the efforts of our staff and our students, we press ed ahead and achieved excellence in many areas, and that is not to say we don’t have challenges.
“Every institution will have challenges, but while we focus on the challenges and how we can overcome them in the future, we should not be afraid to speak about the things that we have done, and done very, very well,” Sankat added.
“You alluded to some of the challenges as the year came to an end. Some of the continuing challenges that we face, and we have need to reflect deeply on some of the things that were said and ensure that mistakes are not made. In trying to be world class, I always take the approach that we don’t make the same mistakes twice,” he said.
Following Sankat’s presentation, which also included highlights of UWI’s commercial acti-
vities in branding water, etc, Williams began raising questions on commercialisation of the university, which he said the external auditors had also raised.
However, even as the question was being answered, members of the media were promptly asked to leave the room by a UWI official.
When the media questioned why they weren’t being allowed to stay for Harris’ statement, the UWI official explained the media’s coverage would have to end now because the chairman needed to raise some questions on Sankat’s presentation.