Agreed, Dr Phillips, but…
I am grateful to Dr Peter Phillips for his thoughtful response to my comments on The University of the West Indies (The UWI) policy-oriented research set out in last Sunday’s
But Dr Phillips, in reaching his conclusion, tends to disregard or minimise existing contributions by The UWI in specific areas that are directly relevant to his argument. That is what I sought to demonstrate in my article last Sunday. In response, Dr Phillips has kindly noted that his position “is not to imply a deficiency on the part of The UWI faculty”.
This assurance does not, however, address fully my view that Dr Phillips tends to disregard or minimise UWI scholarship. For, in his response, Dr Phillips states:
“Essentially, the point I was alluding to [about UWI research contributions] was that during my ministerial tenure there was no relevant policy advice concerning any of the fundamental policy issues arising in the portfolios. The one exception really was in the health sector. Otherwise, as in the case of national security, there was no available research focusing, for example, on the main determinants underlying the steady rise of violent crime since independence or on the various and diverse elements conducive to a national solution to the problem.”
Dr Phillips then adds that the economics of public transport systems is another area not served by UWI scholarship.
My main point today concerns national security, a point of major concern in Jamaica. Some significant UWI contributions from Mona so far unmentioned by Dr Phillips include:
(a) Anthony Harriott, Police and Crime Control in Jamaica: Problems of Reforming Ex-Colonial Constabularies (2000), 231 pages, based in part on a doctoral thesis, The UWI.
(b) Suzette Haughton, Drugged Out: Globalisation and Jamaica’s Resilience to Drug Trafficking (2011), 256 pages, based on a doctoral thesis at the University of London.
(c) Shazeeda Ali, Money Laundering Control in the Caribbean (2003), 336 pages, based on a doctoral thesis, University of London.
(d) The PIOJ, Human Development Report 2005, Chapter VI, ‘Crime and Globalisation in Jamaica’, pages 151 to 177, mainly by Harriott with review by The UWI lecturers.
(e) Yonique Campbell, ‘Rights and National Security’ in The Oxford Handbook of Caribbean Constitutions (2020), pages 482 to 500.
(f) Five articles on various aspects of Caribbean security in Jessica Byron (ed), Caribbean Quarterly, Volume 43 (1997).
(g) Trevor Munroe, ‘The Menace of Drugs’, in Ivelaw Griffith (ed) Caribbean Security in the Age of Terror (2004).
(h) Numerous articles on crime and violence by Harriott, Haughton, Campbell, Ali and others.
To this still inexhaustive list of published items — evidence of highly regarded intellectual effort — I make two general additions. First, The UWI’s academics have made public statements on issues that may directly or indirectly contribute to our understanding of crime in Jamaica. In this regard I recall, for instance, that in the late 1990s various UWI academics made research-based submissions to the National Commission on Tribalism chaired by the now-late Justice Kerr — a body that reaffirmed the sadly obvious point that political tribalism has been a notable factor in Jamaican crime and violence.
The UWI’s academics have also been prominent in emphasising the clear link between poverty and injustice, on the one hand, and national insecurity, on the other. Some sociologists and other social scientists have identified causative factors of crime in both public media and scholarly journals on occasions too numerous to mention.
Secondly, still on the point of The UWI and national security, it should be recalled that The UWI has taken practical steps to enhance the ability of the security forces in fighting crime and promoting justice. In 2007 The UWI launched the Centre for National Security and Strategic Studies for students to pursue postgraduate work on security policy and methodology. Speaking at the launch of this centre, then National Security Minister Peter Phillips “lamented the lack of intellectual effort directed towards crime and security initiatives over the years” (reported in the Observer, June 3, 2007). The centre continues its work.
The UWI has also set up an Institute for Criminal Justice and Security, initially under the headship of Professor Harriott. It is, I believe, a fair point that we should examine the work of the Centre for National Security and the Institute for Criminal Justice before we conclude that The UWI has given “no relevant policy advice concerning any of the fundamental policy issues arising in” national security.
Finally, this exchange of views has suggested to me that The UWI’s efforts to publicise its work, and the value of its work, is a never-ending effort. One friend has pointed out to me that many people — in verandah talk — are prepared to dismiss The UWI without evidence, and another has pointed out that The UWI is always an easy target, especially as it has to rely substantially on public funding. My view is that most of The UWI’s academics “in the trenches” give back more than we get, and it would be good for that to be acknowledged sometimes.
Stephen Vasciannie has been a professor of international law at The University of the West Indies since 2002.