In the face of mounting opposition, the University of the West Indies (UWI) is seeking to defend its decision to fire Professor Brendan Bain as Director of the Regional Coordinating Unit of the Caribbean HIV/Training (CHART) Network.
The move by the University follows concerns by gay rights groups across the region, regarding testimony by Bain two years ago in a high-profile case in Belize.
UWI Vice Chancellor Professor E. Nigel Harris, told RJR News that the decision to relieve the Professor Bain of his duties, was not about the university caving in to pressure from influential and powerful gay rights lobby groups. He said, it is not an issue about Professor Bain's academic freedom.
“But if he were a member of the academic community this would have no impact on his academic standing. This is not about his rights to give testimony, it is not about his rights as a Christian, it is not about the views that he might hold, this is about someone having a position in a programme which the university has been contracted to manage and really losing the confidence of the people in an important sector that the programme must reach.
Harris has also defended the UWI's position on academic freedom, as it relates to the publication of research findings which appear to be in conflict with the position of interest groups.
“The analogy this one gives is this - you’re leading a group, the CHART group, the purpose of which is to reach communities that have HIV/AIDS and in fact attempting to stop the epidemic of HIV/AIDS. A central tenant of persons working with HIV/AIDS< is that stigmatization, discrimination and by extension the criminalization of men having sex with men is contrary to the fight against HIV/AIDS, so that is indeed the position,” the Vice Chancellor said.
In support of Professor Bain,a small group of protesters gathered in front of the regional headquarters of UWI’s Mona Campus, on Wednesday morning to protest against his dismissal.
The protestors wore black and taped their mouths shut. The masking tape over their mouths read - freedom of expression.
“We have been called alarmist in the past, with this agenda you are not allowed to descent and once you decent you are punished, we have been saying that for years,” said Shirley Richards, one of the protestors. She said the small protest was an early indication of opposition to the University's decision, and that there was more to come.