Sun | Sep 23, 2018

UWI to replace Queen Elizabeth II as its Visitor

Published:Tuesday | August 14, 2018 | 12:00 AMBrian Walker/Staff Reporter
William Iton
Britain's Queen Elizabeth II
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The University of the West Indies (UWI) is pushing to replace Queen Elizabeth II as its Visitor, which would make justice more accessible for students and staff who have conflicts with the institution by the appointment of a regional jurist to the post.

A key role of the Visitor is to settle disputes that staff or students have with the UWI. University Registrar William Iton explained that the UWI initially wanted permission for the Visitor's responsibilities to be delegated to an eminent Caribbean judge, but the Privy Council has recommended that the institution go further.

"They suggested that (other) universities had gone and taken full responsibility for appointing the Visitor, which would require an amendment to the Charter, and that is the direction that we are pursuing at this stage of the game," said Iton in an interview with The Gleaner yesterday.

He added that the University Council approved a special resolution in April that informed the petition and he did not expect any pushback from the Privy Council. While the matter is out of his hands, Iton is hoping that approval will be granted by December.

The university registrar said, "The problem is that in the current dispensation, we've had nine or 10 cases [in 10 years] and none of them have been resolved and we think that is very unfortunate."

When asked if the governor general is precluded from acting on the Queen's behalf, Iton disclosed that "the Queen would have to delegate that authority directly, but even when she does, because the visitatorial jurisdiction is not one that many people are fully acquainted with, there's still a whole lot of stumbling".

Another issue is that students or staff cannot mount a court challenge against the UWI, if they have not exhausted all methods of mediation, including engaging the Visitor. Suzette Curtello, a biochemistry PhD student in 2015, took the UWI to court for it to disclose the identities of her examiners, as she felt a third person with whom she had a thorny relationship gave her a failing grade out of malice, and not an objective analysis.

Justice Bryan Sykes, in striking out the claim, ruled: "The basis for this decision is that (the) visitatorial jurisdiction is still available to Miss Curtello. However, as this court has endeavoured to make clear, the Visitor's decision is subject to judicial review ... ."

brian.walker@gleanerjm.com