UWI had no choice but to dismiss Prof Bain
Monday, June 09, 2014
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BAIN… cannot separate his personal views from the comments that have come to represent the UWI
THE issue of the University of the West Indies’ (UWI’s) termination of the short-term contract of Professor Brendan Bain is not at all about academic freedom. Those who say that it is are misinformed, with perhaps a few who are simply being opportunistic.
It is not even about whether or not the statement in Bain’s court testimony was true or untrue. At the core, it is about a programme leader publicly undermining the very programme and principles he was mandated to support. By his words and action, he voluntarily aligned himself with, and gave endorsement to, a diametrically opposed, unacceptable message on
an issue of grave import for the UWI.
The essence of the harm, therefore, more so than the content of the words that Professor Bain spoke, is the fact that an authoritative leader of the UWI spoke with one voice with a litigant party whose purpose and objectives are in direct conflict with
the policies of Caribbean HIV/AIDS Regional Training (CHART) Network and the UWI.
This litigant clearly advocates the retention of a discriminatory regime that excludes persons from enjoying rights of equality on the basis of their sexual orientation. Consequently, the testimony instantly became associated with the UWI in deeply negative and enduring ways, placing deep question marks on the UWI’s integrity and on its public commitment, not only to progressive notions of
public health and HIV programming, but more fundamentally, to non-discrimination, equal opportunity, justice, and human rights.
It is a fact that the elimination of discrimination on the ground of sexual orientation is a key ingredient of the UWI’s HIV programming, which Professor Bain had the honour to lead for many years and about which he testified. Anti-discrimination training is a vital part of CHART’s own programme, as conceded in the expert testimony.
Significantly, too, the mandate of PEPFAR and the Global Fund for AIDS, which funds CHART, is “to develop programmes aimed at reducing HIV-related stigma”. The mission of UWI’s HIV programming, HARP, as well as CHART, from the very beginning, has co-existed with a human rights agenda, a central plank of which is the need to abolish discriminatory laws on sexual orientation.
This is incontestable and no one associated with it can ever claim to have been unaware of this. I can speak authoritatively to this as one who has been intimately involved with the work of the programme from its inception. Further, as an HIV and Law consultant who has been actively engaged for over 20 years in policy development across the region for governments, international organisations and NGOs, including on important issues of human rights and justice, I understand why this must
be so.
Having participated in several seminars, workshops and sessions on HIV with Professor Bain, I have witnessed first-hand that in each and every one, an important aspect of the discussions and recommendations has been the need to eliminate discrimination and stigma as a result of sexual identity, which co-exist with HIV concerns, making treatment more difficult.
This enlightened position has certainly become part of the UWI’s core values. It is demonstrable, therefore, that UWI’s HIV programming itself is closely aligned to and even dependent on, an egalitarian world view which rejects discrimination on grounds of sexual difference.
Professor Bain’s long-standing and excellent work on HIV and public health is without question. Ironically, it is precisely because of his high profile that his remarks and chosen association are so damaging to UWI’s reputation and credibility.
The retention of Professor Bain in such circumstances threatened to destroy much of the hard-fought gains and trust that UWI has won in the fight against the scourge of HIV and discrimination in general and seriously undermined its own institutional interests. In this context, such testimony cannot be viewed as a mere personal viewpoint, isolated and insulated from CHART and the UWI’s policy position.
Indeed, typically, the very reason authorities like Professor Bain are called upon to speak is because of their professional capacity, which is inextricably linked with the institution, the UWI. Thus, Professor Bain cannot separate his personal views from these comments that have come to represent the institution that is the UWI, which is why they are viewed as harmful and irresponsible.
There is indeed room within an academic institution for individual intellectuals to pontificate about what they view as acceptable inequalities in our societies based on sexual identity, or even race, or religion, or any such thing and supposed scientific bases that support those views. However, the academic institution must draw the line when that individual opinion, intentionally or not, becomes associated with the view of the institution itself.
While intellectual freedom is to be protected and encouraged, the UWI has a duty to ensure that on issues where it holds itself up as perpetuating a particular policy for the benefit of the community, the persons who are chosen to take the lead on the matter are demonstrably in accord with that policy.
I cannot think, for example, that UWI could ever appoint an academic known to be a racist, or supporting racist ideology, to head departments devoted to race studies or even history departments, or a person demonstrating that he or she believes or asserts that women are unequal and their place is in the home, to head the Gender Department!
There have been several ‘scientific’ studies that claim that blacks are lazy and intellectually inferior, or that women are the ‘weaker sex’. Does this mean that in the name of academic freedom, the UWI should compromise its core principles of equality and allow its very integrity to be hijacked? I think not.
Professor Bain, as head of CHART, was in a fiduciary relationship, where one is placed in a position of great trust, which in turn, induces greater responsibility and duties of care. Professor Bain, and by extension, the UWI, with this testimony, violated these fiduciary duties owed to persons living with HIV, the LGBT community, and to the many who look to it for protection and guiding principle.
The bottom line is this: Having given this testimony, it would be impossible for this community, the very constituency that he is supposed to serve, ever to trust Professor Bain again. Thus, the UWI had no choice, after careful review, but to change the leadership of CHART.
Professor Rose-Marie Belle Antoine is dean of the Faculty of Law at the UWI St Augustine campus in Trinidad.


  1. Si know exactly weh shi ah chat bout, cah shi know seh shi jus a put a bunch a wrerds together an literally ah chat FART!!! Dem fire Professor Bain cah nuttin yuh sey and do dese days fi offend gay people. Yuh fi inna agreement wid evbry ting dem do…cah dem is ah very sensitive an protected species. Well Miss Professor from Chinidad yuh coulda write from now tuh di end of time cah not even you believe di dyam foolishness weh yuh write!!! :bola

  2. Spoken like a true law professor. She’s right. He’s done great work for victims of HIV/ AIDS both gay and straight without discrimination, people mustn’t forget that. But if people are afraid to go seek treatment because their lifestyle is illegal it excludes a bunch of people who need that healthcare. Mi agree wid the man, because you have to stand on your own principle, u haffi answer to your own conscience and for that mi haffi big him up. However if u are in favour of keeping laws that embrace shame n stigma towards a groups of people who need access to the healthcare you are mandated to provide, then it undermines what the program is about. That being said, a man must say what in him heart, but him must also suffer the consequence. Mi understand both sides……him haffi stay true to himself, but he also heads a program where his position would compromise the program…uwi have a duty to all affected victims, not just the straight ones

    1. When he was speaking he was speaking in terms of statistics not what he personally thought or what his opinion of their lifestyle is..What is wrong about giving statistics? So because gay people will be offended he shouldnt have given it because he is a professor? a dat she a say

      1. It wasn’t about the stats. The world knows the stats are true. It was about whether to keep the laws to criminalize that kind of sex. The argument of the man in Belize was basically that criminalizing that kinda sex affect the rights of gayeople coming fwd yo recovery treatment. If dem come fwd they may be arrested and so dem fraid fi do that, ofćourse the result is no treatment, moe spreading etc. di yute bring the case gaonst the state, the state call Bain in favour of keeping the laws in place. So Bain gave facts, in addition to saying basically the behaviour costing the state etc. so although mi agree wid him completely, mi can understand how that position can be seen as a conflict of interest. So it’s not so much about him nuh like gays, he has treated them without bias, it’s about keeping in place laws that hold on to the stigma against them causing them to not come fwd when they are to receive treatment. So really n truly them nah go keep somebody Whe basically saying your behaviour is dirty and it’s costing us money, cauz the program him in charge of says basically don’t feel stigmatized, come to us for treatment if the law prevents them from coming forward. So him shun did back down cauz it’s facts, but the university really can’t keep a man to spearhead that kind of project who has voiced the facts in addition to the opinion that he did. I won’t be a hypocrite to keep my job, that’s exactly the choice he made

  3. @Met, my thoughts exactly when the article first came out. His reasoning was based on statistical numbers and at no point in time he made mention of any form of dislike of any lifestyle!! The brunt of his analysis was that specific populations had higher HIV rates compared to other groups and unfortunately, the rising numbers are from the gay/alternate life-style community.. Its facts, he didn’t make the numbers up, go ask the CDC…ME SICK A DEM BLOODCLAATE ..CHA!!!

    1. Dem soon gone ina church gone tell pastor what fi preach. I dont know what stripe this lady is looking but she better go fool some more people because she nah fool mi..They never said the professor spoke out of malice so what point she really a mek? Im so sick of them its not funny

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