Monday, June 30, 2014

(UWI) Vice-chancellor E. Nigel Harris - UWI Didn't Bow To Gays

Erica Virtue, Senior Gleaner Writer

University of the West Indies (UWI) Vice-chancellor E. Nigel Harris said the decision to terminate the services of Professor Brendan Bain as the head of Caribbean HIV/AIDS Regional Training Centre Network (CHART) was not a response to pressure from the homosexual or any other community but made after careful consideration and wide discussions with a variety of stakeholders.

"The decision was not made as a result of the gay groups forcing us to make a decision," Harris told The Gleaner last week.

Bain has filed a suit in the Supreme Court challenging the termination of his contract as director of the Regional Coordinating Unit of CHART. The professor is contending that the action of the UWI breached his constitutional rights of freedom of expression and thought.

Church and other groups have been protesting against the dismissal of Bain for four weeks, which yesterday culminated in a mass rally in Half-Way Tree following a motorcade from the UWI's main gate on Mona Road, St Andrew.

But Harris has insisted that the decision to terminate Bain's contract was "a very thoughtful one".

Carefully considered

"I think one of the difficulties with the perception with how UWI acted was that we were responding merely to the gay community. That is not true. This was a carefully considered decision and based on the discussion with public health officials dealing with HIV/AIDS, we also spoke with people in the clergy, people who were gay; we spoke a lot of straight people, and several conversations with Professor Bain himself," Harris added.

Bain, who is a retired professor but who wrote the model and was contracted to run CHART has sued the university for his removal as head of the organisation following his expert testimony in a case involving a Belizean homosexual who is challenging the constitutionality of the buggery law in that country.

Following his testimony, Caribbean Vulnerable Communities Coalition, headed by former Jamaicans for Justice executive director, Dr Carolyn Gomes, wrote Harris calling for the removal of Bain, arguing that Bain had lost the confidence of a significant sector the community he served.

In the meantime, Harris has offered the university's corridors to the various churches, civil society and other individuals as well as organisations to dialogue on the controversy and the wider debate of rights and responsibilities of all citizens, including homosexuals.

"What one would have wanted, and we still want, is that we would be a platform for peaceful discussion for some of the very contentious issues that seemed to be dividing us at this point," he said.

"I believe that the irony of all of this is that the university should be a place where there should be an opportunity for free speech, free debate and discussion of peoples with differing points of view."


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