Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : April 27th 2014 Contents SUNDAY 27TH APRIL, 2014 -- UWI TODAY 9
Professor Rose-Marie Belle Antoine addressing the
opening of the Law Faculty on April 15.
New Dean rolls up her
and digs right in
BY JOEL HENRY
"I'll never forget the date," she laughs.
"I was moving and my car was piled up with
things when I saw my students protesting at the
The law students were concerned about
campus security. ey had already had an altercation
with the police and asked their lecturer to join them. So
she did, not as a protestor but as a sign of solidarity. When
the police returned, her youthful appearance worked against
her. inking she was a student, she was manhandled and
arrested with the others.
" ey came straight at me," she said. "I was dragged---
not very elegantly---to the police station."
A case of mistaken identity is easily corrected; but even
a er being given the opportunity to leave, Professor Antoine
stayed with her students, subjecting herself to arrest and
"It was a very serious thing. A couple of my students
couldn't get visas. One couldn't get a job. I am still ghting
this battle for some of my students because they were
supposed to have their records expunged and they never
were," she said.
Fighting for others---students, women, children, the
working class, the HIV positive---is part of her nature,
embedded early in life through her parents.
"I thought it was natural to stay," she shrugged. "I could
not leave. I grew up in that sort of family. You would do your
duty. You would serve your community."
Professor Antoine is the seventh of eight children born
to a French father and Grenadian mother. She grew up in
Arima with her siblings (particularly her two sisters) as her
friends and playmates. One of those sisters would become a
nun and today is the Head of the Dominican Convent.
"We had a very atypical childhood. We didn't t into
any sort of social circle."
Today she lives in both Trinidad and St Lucia, with a
strong preference for nature.
"I'm a Virgo," she says in explanation of her love for
the natural world.
One of things she misses most when in Trinidad is her
garden in St Lucia, which is also where she does much of
her creative work outside of academic law. Even without her
long list of achievements in research and advocacy, Professor
Antoine's massive garden mosaic is proof of her superhuman
creative energy. She's also a vocal soloist.
But apart from her family circumstance, her childhood
was unique as well because of her birth. Professor Antoine
was one of the rst of Trinidad and Tobago's "Independence
babies." is, she reasons, is why independence---of spirit
and from colonial in uence---is so important to her.
"I've always de ned myself by my independence. I am
extremely independent. I am very outspoken. I've never had
a crisis of con dence---even as a woman. Even before I went
to Cambridge (for her LLM) and Oxford (for her PhD) I
didn't think they were any better than me. And when I got
there I realised they weren't. I sat with the supposed best in
the world and yes they were very bright people, but honestly
I thought my brother was brighter. I think my husband is
She added, "a lot of people I meet in the Caribbean, even
though they might not have had the same opportunities, have
bright and logical minds. I have students like that as well.
ey may be grassroots but their minds are powerful."
With these twin xations---intellectual independence
and social responsibility---it's easy to predict Professor
Antoine's vision for the new Faculty of Law at St
"I intend, of course, to make this the best faculty ever,"
she laughs, but she's not joking. "I also believe very strongly
in developing people."
Key to this objective is encouraging her sta to engage
in new research. To facilitate, her first priority is the
establishment of a research fund. e o en overworked and
under-resourced academic sta have little time to devote
to research, she says, especially in comparison to faculty in
the US and Europe.
Professor Antoine also sees her own publishing success
as a motivator:
"If they are working with someone who has published
then they see that as the standard. is is the culture I'm
seeing developing. ey all want to publish. I have to say I
am very inspired by my sta so far."
Her other objective is to make the Faculty of Law an
engaging voice in the public discourse on topical social
"I feel very strongly that the faculty should be
community oriented," she said. "Lawyers are very insular. I
have always been multi-disciplinary in my approach so it is
something I want to push my colleagues to become involved
in. We have a duty to be relevant to the society."
Her agenda is ambitious---like everything else she's
undertaken and succeeded at in her academic career.
"We need to dream bigger," she says, and there are few
who live so in line with the maxim of big dreams.
at's why, apart from the particulars of her agenda for
the Faculty of Law, the assets she brings are her inexhaustible
creative impulse and the con dence to release it upon the
world. If she can impart that---to the faculty, to the students,
and to the legal fraternity---we will, like Professor Antoine,
Amidst disenfranchised Haitian children in the Dominican Republic.
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