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Lovelace carries reparations
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Camille Selvon-Abrahams said she knew
when she was asked to come in earlier than
usual that Friday, it was bad news.
After she was fired last month as the head
of the animation programme she founded at
the University of Trinidad & Tobago (UTT)---
led off the compound by security guards, she
said, and denied the opportunity to speak to
her staff one last time---she took her grievances
to the press. She gave her Facebook followers
a heads-up on what they would be reading
about her behaviour that morning, as someone
leaked the information in a human resources
report to a reporter. It said Selvon-Abrahams
used expletives and kicked a chair.
"How the HELL did this reporter get my
HR report? They not even getting the frkin
smear campaign right. Bunch of idiots," Selvon-
Abrahams ranted in a Facebook post. She
denied the use of expletives but not the
charge of furniture abuse. "I have
to find a way to apologise to that
chair," she wrote.
"I was angry," she said
in a recent phone interview from Gasparee
Island, where she had gone with the three
youngest of her four children to get away for
the weekend. She s fielding offers from organ-
isations in T&T and abroad, she said, and is
taking UTT to the Industrial Court.
"My anger, I expressed it. I said, You people
are vicious! Because it really felt like a hostile
takeover," she said.
"I took the time to clean my desk. I didn t
rush. All through that period they were all
standing around me like I m a common thief,"
"I m packing my awards in a cardboard
box. In a cardboard box," she repeated, her
voice gravelly with pain.
"While I was walking out of the department,
I had this vision of me walking into the depart-
ment seven years ago, when it was an empty,
dirty room," she continued. "I was walking
out with [it as] one of the most established
animation programmes in the Caribbean. My
seven years of service to this country was in
that cardboard box."
Selvon-Abrahams holds a BA from Gold-
smiths, University of London, and is an award-
winning animator who founded the largest
animation festival in the English-speaking
Caribbean, Animae Caribe. She founded and
runs one of only a few animation companies
in T&T, Full Circle Animation. Through her
efforts and the work of Animae Caribe, the
Caribbean was allowed to form a regional
chapter of the Association Internationale du
Film d Animation (ASIFA); she has been pres-
ident of the Caribbean chapter since 2011.
The last two weeks have been hard on her,
said Selvon-Abrahams, but the support she s
received---including a demonstration by UTT
students, who also put up an online petition
demanding that she be reinstated---has helped.
"That positive outpouring is what have me
standing," said Selvon-Abrahams. "If I was
not strong, if I wasn t brought up by my parents
to take responsibility and see that you need
to be reflective, I would have been floored. I
would have been ill. I would have been in hos-
pital. It was such a blow.
"But the outpouring has been so amazing
... I m smiling, I m happy."
Selvon-Abrahams said the dismissal came
with little warning and inadequate justification
from the university. A letter from Provost Dr
Fazal Ali last September inviting her to an
event to honour "all those who have served
during the academic year" was filled with
"We have made immense progress under
your leadership and your work has not gone
unnoticed," he wrote.
Then came the letter dated July 31, signed
by Allan Raghunanan, the vice-president of
human resources. The tone was in stark con-
"The University has taken a decision to
restructure and reconfigure the operations and
programmes of study of the Centre for Infor-
mation and Communication Technology (ICT).
It has been determined that the position of
Programme Administrator, which you currently
hold, does not adequately reflect the Univer-
sity s needs.
"The Human Resources Department has
been advised that the ICT programmes of
study require an Assistant Professor with the
relevant PhD qualifications. Academic lead-
ership of the Animation Unit will be provided
by this Assistant Professor, who will also be
responsible for programme administration.
"In the circumstances, the University will
not be in a position to offer you a renewed
contract of employment."
Similar contradictions came across in an
interview with Provost Ali.
"Camille is somebody I admire," said Ali.
He described his relationship with Selvon-
Abrahams as "fantastic" and said they d been
working closely together over the last few
months to develop the curriculum for the new
degree in digital media the university intends
to offer at a yet- to-be-determined time in
When asked why then she was basically
thrown off the campus by security, he said:
"What I am seeing in the newspaper and what
is written in four separate witness statements
is not in alignment."
During the interview, Ali seemed very careful
in choosing his words. He did not even want
to use the terms "fire", "dismiss" or "let go"
to describe what has happened to Selvon-
His most assertive response came when
asked if Krystian Ramlogan, a film specialist
at UTT, would be replacing Selvon-Abrahams,
as has been reported in the press.
"Not at all. There s an emphatic no to that.
That is not true," he said.
He hinted that Selvon-Abrahams position
may not be filled and that many of her func-
tions as programme administrator could be
carried out by head of the department Dr Rod-
"I don t see anybody right now on staff on
UTT that I have any intention of replacing
her with," he said.
At the suggestion that Selvon-Abraham s
firing may have a political motive---UTT is
run by the state---he pointed to another position
she holds: she was recently appointed chair
of FilmTT, the rebranded film support arm of
the government-owned CreativeTT compa-
"If it was political, would the very same
government make her the chairman of the
Film Co?" he asked.
Ali appeared regretful about the acrimony
playing out in the media and seemed to extend
an olive branch.
"I wish Camille will pick up the phone and
call me and say, Provost, can I come and see
you please? You know what I would tell
Camille? Camille, come now ."
He should soon get the chance to meet with
Selvon-Abrahams. Trying to arrange a meeting
between parties in the first part of the process
in taking an industrial dispute to court.
Selvon-Abrahams calls firing
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