The University of the West Indies (UWI) announced on Saturday Prof Rose-Marie Belle Antoine as the new principal of the university’s St. Augustine campus. The decision was made during the UWI’s University Council meeting on April 29.
The appointment takes effect on August 1, and Antoine will replace outgoing principal Prof Brian Copeland and become the first female to hold the post.
The UWI’s website states Antoine is a Cambridge and Oxford scholar who holds a doctorate from Oxford University in Offshore Financial Law.
Antoine started her journey with the UWI as a temporary law lecturer at the Cave Hill campus in 1989 and then became a lecturer in 1991.
Since then, she has served in several high-ranking positions at the UWI including law faculty dean and pro vice-chancellor of the Board for Graduate Studies and Research.
During her time as law faculty dean, Antoine was instrumental in creating the Makandal Daaga Scholarship in Law which is an equal opportunity scholarship aiming to support law students who are outstanding in and out of the classroom.
Contacted for comment, Antoine noted Copeland was still principal until her appointment takes effect.
Until then, Antoine said, “I would like to give the incumbent some courtesy, so I prefer to comment later. Thanks for reaching out.”
But senior lecturer at the UWI’s Institute for Gender and Development Studies (IDGS), Dr Gabrielle Hosein, told Sunday Newsday Antoine’s appointment was a step in the right direction.
“Over the last decades, there has been a slow erosion of male dominance in UWI’s administrative hierarchy, and Prof Belle Antoine’s appointment as principal is another, significant crack in that old glass ceiling following a number of women, such as Prof Rhoda Reddock, holding the post of deputy principal.”
Pointing out Antoine has been an ally of the IGDS, Hosein said she has an excellent track record of inclusive leadership with the unwavering support of human rights and social justice efforts relating to LBGTI non-discrimination, administrative and carceral injustice, marijuana decriminalisation and rights for people with disabilities.
“We welcome a UWI principal with such an outstanding record of challenging inequity and exclusion and their intersections with patriarchal and other inequities.
“We are confident about her capacity to inspire and to draw the resources of the region toward strengthening the UWI and its capacity to transform the region.”
Outside of her work with the UWI, Antoine has served as president of the Organization of American States Inter-American Commission on Human Rights where has also been the Rapporteur for Persons of African Descent and Rapporteur for Indigenous Peoples.
As chairman of Caricom’s marijuana commission, Antoine has been an advocate for the decriminalisation of marijuana and the creation of a sustainable cannabis industry.
She also currently serves as president of the Family Planning Association.
The association’s executive director Ava Rampersad described Antoine as a down-to-earth, committed leader who is particularly passionate about the development of young people.
Rampersad said, “She is firm when she needs to be firm, she is very innovative and open to ideas.
“Once you are able to approach her from a perspective of coming with your evidence to say something, she would definitely support you.”
She said Antoine is someone who operates from a place of integrity.
“It is no surprise someone with that calibre would be appointed as the principal of the UWI.
“We at the association are very proud of her, we are honoured by her accolades, and we continue to support her in her endeavours.”
Former principals of The UWI St Augustine campus include Prof Clement Sankat (2008-2016), former MP Dr Bhoendradatt Tewarie (2001-2007), Prof Compton Bourne (1996-2001), former president George Maxwell Richards (1985-1996), Prof Lloyd Braithwaite (1969-1984), Sir Dudley Huggins (1963-1969) and Sir Philip Sherlock (1960-1963).