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SUNDAY 10 SEPTEMBER, 2017 -- UWI TODAY 9
is not a business and that although
niversity and there are things about
the University to think about, the
as a business, because it is not here
ere as a common good."
He is also Board Chairman at Massy Holdings
A er 44 years, he is a reputable and respected gure
within the business community. He has been a director
on the board of 18 di erent organizations throughout the
region -- banking, brewing, insurance, tourism, packaging,
distribution, retailing, air travel, even matches -- quite the
gamut; and if you consider his latest portfolio, you can
add education to the list.
Does this make Chancellor Bermudez a mogul, a
tycoon... a magnate? ey are words that invoke power,
wealth and in uence, but even if he has all of these,
somehow those descriptions do not sit immaculately on
his neat frame. ose words cast a decadent, maybe even
ruthless, shadow; and there is something too light about
him for them to t snugly. He has a clear distaste for
trappings and fanfare, and an unobtrusive manner that
suggests he prefers to observe than to be seen.
He likes walking, hiking and riding his bicycle, and
spending time with friends. "I think my favourite pastime
might be having nothing to do," he says with a laugh.
roughout our conversations some words come up
repeatedly -- values, service, mentoring, collaboration,
equity, opportunity, balance, commitment, fun,
optimism... When he articulates his views on the
University, on the region's development, on the young
people in our midst, each idea is rooted inside one of
those words. He is not spouting platitudes; he is earnest,
and has done his homework with the care of a man who
believes in the importance of attention to detail.
His manner is informal -- a spectrum away from the
preponderance of protocols that de ne the University --
but he seems thorough, keen to understand things, and
interested in learning. He might be a breath of fresh air to
the many intellectual academics at the University.
When asked what challenges he sees for the
University, he goes right back to its rst incarnation as
the University College of the West Indies in 1948 and the
hurdles it faced.
e rate of change now will test the University's
agility, because the changes are so great that they are
"disrupting the structures that we have come to depend on
and understand," he says, and "it is a problem it will have
to grapple with for the rest of its existence." e strategic
plan has to be dynamic, "because it is a ve-year plan and
before the ve years are over, the changing environment
is going to force adjustment as things we don't foresee
begin to happen."
It used to be straightforward, he says, "you went to a
university and you got a set of tools, and basically, for the
rest of your life, you used those tools." With technology
rendering everything obsolete in no time at all, today's
world requires lifelong learning and universities must
be prepared to provide programmes that upgrade skills
continuously, he says, and that creates an opportunity for
them to earn revenue as well.
But even as he identi es several kinds of collaborations
the University can build -- with States, students, the private
sector -- for income generation, he believes it must not
forget its main responsibility.
" e reality is that the University is not a business and
that although there are business aspects to the University
and there are things about business that could be useful
for the University to think about, the University cannot be
approached as a business, because it is not here to make
a pro t, it is here as a common good."
at places a special burden of care on the University
on of Change
's new direction
llor of e University of the West Indies at a ceremony
eptember 16, 2017. PHOTO: MARIA NUNES
in the way it manages its resources. "Every contributing
country has scrimped and saved to meet its obligations,
and we have to make sure that we use the funds wisely,"
Equity is important, he says. " e University must be
focused on creating an equitable environment. e history
of these islands -- slavery, indentureship, colonialism, --
this is a University that, more than most, must be focused
on providing an equitable environment. e University
has only just adopted a gender policy in the year 2017,
and a gender policy is only the beginning of an equitable
He thinks the University should create a forum for
debates; that faculty members should share their expert
opinions on matters of public importance, and that they
should encourage students to do the same.
"The UWI must have a balanced view, showing
di erent arguments, so people can draw their conclusions.
You don't want to have a politicized university; it should
provide a forum for discussion and the students must be
an important part of that," he says.
"We have to serve the community; that is the basic
purpose of the University in all the things it does, whether
it is research, teaching... the University has to become
more and more integrated into the community."
is is one of the ways he sees the collaborations
"We have a responsibility to ensure that once
we educate our people that we provide them with
opportunities, otherwise we are going to create a cadre
of dissatis ed, unhappy young people who cannot ful ll
their potential," he says. e "we" he is referring to is "the
community, the West Indies," he says.
" at requires collaboration on every front and it
something that is happening already. People are leaving
university and can't nd the kind of employment they
expected to nd with a university degree."
He focuses very heavily on the quality of a student's
experience, and I wonder if, because his own experience
was unpleasant, he has greater empathy for the nature of
the learning environment. To him, it should not simply
be a matter of certi cation, but that the University has to
help nurture their sense of belonging and pride in being
" e more the University can be integrated, the more
West Indians can come on the campuses and get to know
each other, the stronger the glue that holds Caricom
together," he says.
Does he think the regional movement is failing?
"I don't think so. I think that over the years we've had
our quarrels, but this is not unique to Caricom. We've had
our disagreements but all in all, I think there is a genuine
understanding that we are stronger together. ere is no
doubt of it. Even our largest islands are relatively small
and if we don't stick together and try to achieve some
size in unity, then I think we will be the worse o for it."
He talks about how his travels throughout the islands
have made him appreciate the beauty of each.
"I like all of them. Every country in the West Indies
is fun. I can't say that there is anything in any of them
that I don't enjoy. And they are so di erent. You would
think we are homogeneous. We are not, in that we have
our own quirks and you just have to appreciate them for
what they are," he says.
True of the islands. True of the people.
Vaneisa Baksh is Editor of UWI TODAY.
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