Former principal Sir Hilary Beckles says the loss of 4,500 students as a result of Government’s implementation of tuition fees was his the most “painful” experience of his 12-year tenure at the University of the West indies, Cave Hill.
Sir Hilary, who officially took up the post of Vice-Chancellor of the UWI on May 1, bared his soul before to a packed audience at the Errol Barrow Centre of Creative Imagination last night.
Beckles, who spent some 40 minutes reflecting on his achievements, also expressed regret over a moment in Finances and General Purposes Committee when he said the Government’s debt to the campus was “so crippling that I raised my voice a little and had an unfortunate discussion with the Permanent Secretary of Education Cecile Humphrey”.
The former principal said: “I apologised to her, because the pain of not being able to pay salaries.
“And I can tell you that because of her maturity and her understanding and her forgiveness of me that I was able to continue.”
He turned to Humphrey, who was present in the audience last night, and said: “Cecile I thank you.”
Sir Hilary, who was recently involved in a very public spat with Prime Minister Freundel Stuart, acknowledged that “many people would have said unpleasant words to me, but you were very sweet, you understood and forgave me, and I thank you most profoundly”.
He also zeroed in on the Government’s recent imposition of tuition fees at UWI Cave Hill saying: “I wish to apologise to y distinguished friend Damani Parris, former Guild president.
“I did try my best to work through the challenges that we have faced in the last semester for our students,” said Sir Hilary, adding: “Losing four and a half thousand students in one swoop, I cannot imagine any more painful experience than I have had, not to see those faces on the Cave Hill Campus.”
“I know it pained you,” he said to Parris, who was among those who earlier paid tribute to the Vice-Chancellor. “And believe me if I could have [stopped] it I would have. But it was not to be”.