Professors’ passing parade

The media has been filled recently with the battles between the Police Service Commission (PSC) and the present Commissioner of Police (COP).

This blog does not pretend to care about this pappyshow but shall use it rather as a starting place to address the issue of academic consultancy and the dangers of a society obsessed with certification as opposed to quality education or genuine qualification.

Universities have historically been the places specifically designed for the exploration of truth and the development of understanding. Since the end of the Second World War, most so-called professors have decided that truth should not be considered priceless; rather, it must have a quantifiable value determined by the marketplace.

We’ve gotten accustomed to economists, professors of Business Administration and accountants peddling their expertise wrapped in the packaging that comes from their association with academia. Should you doubt my claim, just consider the current economic crisis and how angry we have tended to become over the fact that the very same people who were once the very public champions of deregulation are now hired to solve the problem they’ve created.

(Think former Harvard President and adviser to Goldman Sachs as well as now three US presidents in a row, Larry Summers. Or Frederic Mishkin. Or the entire Columbia School of Business or the University of Chicago School of Economics.)

I haven’t seen anyone blink over the fact that the lowest credit rating given by ‘independent’ rating agencies such as Standard and Poor’s or Moody’s to all the financial institutions just before they were subsequently bailed out was AA. In fact, a mere couple weeks before they were declared insolvent and required bailing out, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were still rated AAA.

Or if you want to bring the issue home, have we seen anyone marching in the streets over the involvement of members of the Government like Dr Bhoe Tewarie with the CLICO Board?

The fact that a large number of social scientists peddle their expertise to corporations and governments behind a façade of academic independence doesn’t mean we can’t laugh hysterically when the byplay between Professor Ramesh Deosaran and Commissioner Gibbs occurs.

The PSC and its members, like so many present-day courtiers, must busily engage in the most ridiculous of dances.

The Commissioner must appear to be held to some ‘independent standard’ that just somehow just happens to be in consonance with the general perceptions of the majority of the citizenry while precisely serving the needs of the Government. The Government can then placate the citizenry as desired by reassuring them that these employees of theirs operate quite independently and are solely interested in truth and understanding as attested to by their connections to academia.

There are numerous laws in place throughout the Western World that regulate the aforementioned kind of activity by lawyers and lobbyists. Discussions on influence peddling as opposed to lobbying are quite commonplace.

The social scientists are continually able to hide from these discussions because we do not acknowledge that universities are for the most part no longer truly independent. They are just as willing to prostitute themselves as is the new breed of tenured professor.

Hence the new corporatist doctrines are reinforced by universities that champion standardized tests at the primary and secondary levels of education. These are tests that are solely concerned with short-term memory and the most mechanistic of skills as they are quite necessary for managers to have.

The university then simply becomes a finishing school which one must attend in order to gain membership to the ruling elite. If you don’t believe me, ask Reshmi Ramnarine, Omar Khan or Dr Suruj Rambachan.

You are not allowed in the VIP Section without this pass, and those that get in and cannot be removed are quite hurriedly conferred with honorary degrees.

Management consultancy might be one of the best paid growth industries since the 1970s; in Trinidad and Tobago, it is probably entering its most lucrative phases.

As the dancing and the pappyshow continue and the media becomes full of discussion about our present Commissioner and Deputy Commissioner of Police and the justifications of seemingly excessive compensation and continuing terms of employment are ‘independently’ offered, forgive those who feel compelled to laugh hysterically.

Consider that, as a result of their foreignness, these gentlemen are marketed precisely as offering ‘independent expertise’ and come here not as members of the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service but rather as management consultants to it.

The activities of people like Professor Deosaran or Professor Mishkin are symptoms of the severe damage done to the ideals of academic freedom and independence.

I agree with John Ralston Saul when he says, “To undo the corrupt system in place may be as complex as the eighteenth and nineteenth century battle to separate church and learning.”

Further, I submit, it will not happen unless and until we perceive that any consultancy by Deosaran and his ilk is morally reprehensible.


Garrick Bruce is not paid any consultancy fee by

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