Even as you watch the university becoming more skeletal with each passing day
STORY by JACK WARNER UTT PhD Student
The chief cause of failure and unhappiness is trading what you want most for what you want right now. Zig Zigler
Of course, what some people want most is what they want right now. These individuals are unwilling to wait. They want instant gratification. They want it all and they want it immediately. Such people then are hard-wired to fail in the long run more often than not.
They are intemperate, demanding, and selfish. They see neither their own distant picture nor anyone else’s contemporary picture. They are concerned with the tide which raises only their own boat, an illogical desire, which seeks a path for only their own advancement, with no room for anyone else to move forward. So they lie, they cheat, they dig pits for others.
However, it should be noted that sometimes with the last shovel full that they take out of the pit, they overreach, lose their balance, and fall into their own pit- trapped! So, this is a cautionary tale. It is meant to bring hope to the despairing, to issue a warning to the early adopters, and to offer a reminder to the evildoers. As usual, though, we will end with recommendations for improvement.
Changes and Impacts
There have been a lot of changes in UTT during the last couple of years. A lot of them may have come about because of some people wanting what they want most right now and having the wherewithal to put in place conditions which support their getting just that. Most people recognize these changes as negative. They may also recognize but be afraid to name the origins of these changes. Some of these individuals may believe they have no choice but to work with the changes but it makes them soul-sick. They have given up what they want most, a healthy, peaceful work environment, for what they want right now, namely to avoid being the target of punishing malice in the existing UTT work environment. They want to just stay under the radar and not attract any negative attention.
Still others, however, feel that the best thing is to get on board quickly- to adapt to whatever obtains as the new ‘normal.’ To be on the side of the status quo. Those early adopters are often used as proof that all is fine and dandy. They are held up as beacons of work satisfaction. They are used as a blanket to mask the unhappiness of the despairing and to invalidate the protests of those who speak up. Their satisfaction is proof that any unsatisfied person is a liar. They may or may not be conscious of it but these early and ready adopters are nothing but
Words for the Despairing
First, we tell those at UTT who are despairing that, to paraphrase singer Johnny Nash, you will see clearly once the rain has gone. Once those dark clouds which had you down are gone, there may be yet a bright, bright sunshiny day. Of course with the clarity of that day, you will see all the obstacles in your way. Your job will be to remove them not to smile vacuously at them. There is no free ride. For that bright, bright sunshiny day to persist, every individual who cares, everyone who hopes, all who are vested in the future of the National University will have to rise up and say no more’ and ‘never again.’
They will have to do better and be better. They will have to stand up with courage and realize that they were once far, far too easily cowed, too afraid of the possibility of their own individual punishment and pain to understand how much the greater good was suffering, too willing to leave resistance to a few others, too silent about overt wrongdoing, and finally too initially relieved at their own ‘escape.’ See what has happened. You have escaped nothing.
Your unease has grown tenfold. You are burdened by guilt. You watch the university become more skeletal with each passing day. You lose hope and begin to believe that the end is inevitable. This is not escape. This is purgatory. But all is not lost. It ain’t over till it’s over!
Words for The Early Adopters
We need to warn the early adopters, those willing to follow the new ‘normal’ over the cliff like lemmings. This state of UTT today is not ‘normal.’ Don’t try to adapt to it and feel that all will be OK. You will be helping to concretize dozens of bad decisions and new illogical practices. Speak up. No, you are not ‘intelligent’ because you see as magnificent fabric the empty air that the dishonest tailors are holding up.
Make clothes out of that and you will be naked. Don’t adapt to and adopt nothingness, Speak up! Speak up or be revealed as being deceived by your own need to feel one of the inner circle, one of the ‘intelligentsia.’ Stop giving a thumbs up to what you can see is wrong. If you feel it’s wrong, don’t embrace it. Speak up! Nothing good ever comes from staying silent in the face of evil. What is more, you may be adopting to some status which, God willing, may be only temporary. The possibility exists that, when the status quo changes, your previously willing adoption/adaptation may leave you the odd one out. Remember, it ain’t over till it’s
Words for the Evil-Doers
An arrow can only be shot by pulling it backwards. Anon.
Is this too vague for you? Well here are two meanings. First here is the benign version. ‘When life is dragging you back with difficulties, just imagine it is going to launch you into something great.’ For those who want to feel good, this meaning can work. The darker moral here is this. Never introduce tension into anything with a point or a bite. In relieving that tension, such things (people) tend to take aim at and find an ass, usually yours. Hence stemmed the phrases ‘stick it up your’ and ‘biting you in the’ ass. The warning is this. Do not enjoy your early or short term successes too heartily. There is a very good likelihood that those successes will not last. What is more, gaining those early successes may very well turn out to be the reason why you lose later. If there is even the slightest hint of improper behaviour in obtaining those successes- invalid memoranda and/or false affidavits would count as examples- then that impropriety will set the basis for bringing the whole house of cards tumbling down. The problems which occur when improper behaviour is revealed are these. It tarnishes and shames not just the main perpetrator but all those who aided and abetted with their facilitation and their false validations. So, people should note it ain’t over till it’s over!
Words for the Facilitators and the Apologists
You are probably at a crossroads. Go back or continue? You have spent time supporting the insupportable. You may have thought it would be a one-time thing, this skirting or not doing the right thing. So you turned a blind eye, or encouraged, or facilitated, or covered-up. And then what? The ‘things’ didn’t stop at one or at two. They kept coming and you kept covering. So it became a slippery slope.
But here is a question. What happens when everything comes out? What will you do when the one you have been ‘protecting’ falls, when all is exposed? What happens when people start to question how much and how long you knew and the list turns out to be so much longer and deeper than even you realized because it was so gradual and almost seamless that you failed to notice yourself getting deeper and deeper in?
This is the problem with unquestioning facilitation. You don’t understand the depth of the wrong you are supporting. You give it a superficial look, a passing glance, and then OK everything. What happens when you get a full assessment of all the harm done? What will you do when you realize the extent of the stain?
Our advice is this. It is never going to get better. With each new accommodation you have to make for a wrongdoer, the tab gets bigger and the potential embarrassment broader. The time to stop is now. You are not going to hide what you covered before by covering yet more. You will be judged by what you supported and what you didn’t. To you, though, we say, it is over or very soon will be. It is all downhill from here and the momentum towards the bottom will be ever-increasing.
Words for Everyone – Vest or Go Home!
It doesn’t matter whether you are the chief administrator or house-keeping staff; academic, academic support, or corporate staff; local or foreign staff, you need to either be vested in the advancement of the University of Trinidad and Tobago or go home. What does vested mean? It means that you put the collective interests of UTT, its staff and student bodies above your singular pleasure or want. It means that you don’t harm the learning environment or the reputation of the University in your efforts to satisfy your own malicious needs. It means that your personal agenda cannot be at odds with what is needed to send the University forward. It means that froth and sleight of hand, which are the enemies of Quality, are out and substance is in. It means that you cooperate not subjugate. If any of this is too much for you, then go. It is over for you or very soon
Signs of Commitment
Perhaps in this paragraph, it is better to illustrate what commitment is NOT. If you open your tenure at UTT hunting for jobs elsewhere, then obviously you are not committed and never intended to be. If you telegraph that you are using UTT as just a stepping stone – by focusing on building your own portfolio and resume, hungrily scrambling to get your name on papers, regardless of the quality, attending bogus conferences just for a false credit- then you are not committed and are hardly likely to ever be.
If you are pining after some significant other in another country, so much so that you must run away at every opportunity, then go or go back there. Follow your heart and/or your libido because you are not committed here. If you are treading water, feel you are slumming by being at UTT, feel you are ‘all that’ and don’t need to work to justify your remuneration, then go, you are not committed.
UTT must not be perceived as some high class, or maybe even a low class ‘dole.’ It is not a charitable institution. If you are not earning your pay, if your willingness to commit is not there, then you are no better than a thief and you really should go. It is over for you or very soon will be!
A ‘Future Perfect’ State
The future perfect tense of a verb is used for actions which will be completed before or by some point in the future. These are verb forms with ‘will have’ in it so, as an example, one could say or write ‘By 2021, UTT will have cleared out a lot of its rubbish and turned itself around.’ On the other hand, there is the past conditional. This is when ‘would have,’ ‘should have’ or ‘could have’ is used in the verb form. This suggests something in the past which wasn’t done either because some other condition did not happen or did happen. It is usually paired with ‘if only’ in another phrase.
An example of this would be ‘UTT could have saved itself a lot of trouble and costs, if only it had heeded many of the Sunshine Today’s excellent recommendations made in article after article.’ These verb forms, which contain would, should, could have, are called ‘conditionals of lost opportunities.’ So, if we want a ‘Future Perfect’ UTT, we need to…
Replace the conditionals of lost opportunities with future possibilities – We need now to seize the day and make all the corrections to our National University that we missed opportunities to do before. No more ‘if only’ moments.
Make sacrosanct the principles of transparency and accountability- When the Honourable Mr. Justice Frank Seepersad delivered a ruling in favour of Jwala Rambarran against Minister of Finance, Colm Imbert, on May 23rd, 2019, we were struck by many of the utterances from the bench which we felt could almost be pronouncements on UTT and some of the pending court cases involving the institution and its staff. Some may even be forecasts of things to come, including the statement “The facts of this case are as exceptional as they are disturbing.”
We feel UTT has to gird itself for a whole lot of ‘disturbing.’ A lot of his Honour’s comments could be considered views on the entitlement of those in authority to mask Governmental, individual, or institutional malice from the public. The court was of the view that ‘in a democratic society, disclosure should not be restrained because of a fear that the information if disclosed, may enable the public to reference, discuss and/or critique’ the activity of someone in authority. The court set as a threshold for withholding disclosure anything with ‘a negative or debilitating impact on the collective interests of the institution and found that ‘the possibility that the disclosure may expose (an official) to public discussion or criticism is not a matter which crosses the threshold of the requested degree of detriment.’
In other words, an official’s wrongdoing should not be covered up because supposedly it would damage the institution if known. This never works because such officials continue to do wrong, protected by that argument and the damage to the institution is far worse.
Introduce a ‘whistle-blower’ pathway – UTT has to introduce a path by which subordinates can report on wrongdoing of work supervisors, without having to go through the very offending supervisor to get redress. There must be a way for crosschecks on performance. To quote from Justice Seepersad again, no one can ‘usurp the court’s function and be the judge and jury of his own credibility and expertise.’ Also, no one should believe that ‘deference should be afforded in relation to his opinion because he is who he is.’ If you do nonsense, an underling should be free to point it out.
Be Truthful in Your Institutional Statements – At least one person has accused UTT of being dishonest in its press releases and Corporate Communication statements. Justice Seepersad has a view there as well. It is that ‘public figures must always account for their actions and the assertions which they advance in their public capacity. Personal prejudices should never prevail over objectivity.’
It is not acceptable then for UTT officials to make sloppy utterances in their communications to the public or even internally to students and staff, confirming and validating who and what they shouldn’t. It is wrong to eschew the need for solid evidence and to accept self-validation from the unworthy. It is irresponsible for them to let their own negative animus to someone cloud their judgment so that they propagate false information, because it appeals to their desired perspective, even when in their hearts they know the truth. We look forward to hearing this from another bench. Without Transparency, Accountability, Honesty, and perhaps, Humility, there is no ‘future Perfect’ state for UTT. It truly will have been over by the next few years!