Monday, 3 October 2011

Culture Shock: Politics at Cave Hill

Let me preface by saying that I didn’t experience much in regards to the political atmosphere at UWI, Mona where I did my first degree. Suffice it to say that the fact that I’ve had to pack up my life and move to another country has made it so that I kind of have to be more involved in certain things as it regards extra-curricular activities and such.

Now, at Mona, I would vote when it came time to do Guild Elections and the most I would know about candidates is if they were close to a circle I was in or not. More often than not, they would be outside of my circle of friends or close associates and so I would know so little of them that I could not tell their names different on the ballot. At Cave Hill, given that the campus is smaller, even though the candidates are not in my circle, I’ve already (in my month here) come to know more about these people than the ones back home.
The specific election I will address is that of the “lower positions” (the words of an executive member of the board, not mine) in the Law Society- 1st and 2nd year Law Representative, Education and Mooting Chairperson and Cross-Faculty Representative.

I first noticed tension when one of the nominees (people volunteer themselves to run) who was Belizean announced himself for candidacy. He was clearly a favourite with those who had been in the Cave Hill Law Program since year one. Those of us who had just come aboard in our second year had little to no clue who he was but he was met with cheers from those who knew him. The next class, one of my colleagues from Mona announced his name to be in the running for the same position. Those of us from Mona cheered, much to the annoyance of others I came to realize. The third candidate did not announce herself during that class but she offered herself for help with getting handouts and such for those who had been experiencing problems- good tactic.

After that class, a big hoorah happened when a couple supporters of the Belizean decided to provoke some of my Mona colleagues. They jeered their support for their candidate over the assumed candidate for all Mona people. The manner in which this was done was joking by a couple of them but the incident went on so long that it really started to push buttons. Comments like “They’re the minority so they don’t matter” were aimed at the Jamaicans and this set off a firestorm that even 15 minutes later had not really cooled. I must admit, it is hard for me to come to terms with the fact that an individual can invade your personal space to a level that only a Siamese would, point in your face, shout and laugh at you then turn around and flash you off and YET end up telling you “Don’t take it personal”. And here I was thinking Jamaicans were abrasive.
It seems to me that a major difference here is that getting physical is not always about something aggressive but, as I said, it’s hard to wrap my mind around it. I’ve seen it happen with Bajans as well as Belizeans. Someone bounces you quite hard and does not even look back at you. At home, an apology better be offered up quickly or “It a go be war!”

But I digress. Eventually the ruckus was subdued and there was a lot of talk of going to the debates with an open mind and not voting based on friendship or nationality. Who really believes that that’s what happened for the majority? Alas, I was informed that a major reason for the tension was that in the elections at Cave Hill, it’s always a Jamaican against someone else as the favourite or something. Meh
 Skip to the night of the debates. I must say I was extremely proud to be Jamaican. The two candidates from Mona did extremely well. They answered their questions completely and they really sold themselves. The Belizean- who I’ve come to think of as a cool guy- sold himself but not necessarily as a suitable Law Representative, in my opinion. Now, I have no doubt that he could have and would have done a great job but he seemed like he was there more to reel off his resume than anything else. He didn’t do so well at answering what was actually asked. I would say though that I was most impressed with the female from Mona. I expected her to do a great job but she surpassed my expectations. She barely looked at her paper in her opening speech and she did not stutter. Confidence is so key with these things. The male from Mona also did really great but I already had high expectations from him so it wasn’t that much of a gap between expectation and reality. At the same time, I must give him major props for emphasizing the fact that, while he does not have the advantage that the Belizean did (which Mr. Belize was sure to remind us about throughout the debates), he had surely covered a lot of ground and made up for lost time in his short time here. Please note that I am speaking as objectively and as truthfully as I possibly can and I am giving MY views on the debates only here.

At the end of the night, most people were unsure of who the winner would be. The cocky attitude of supporters from the camps had been all but diffused. The winner could be anyone’s guess. There was the theory that the Jamaicans did the best at the debates and, as such, the Jamaican votes would be split and that it would now be up to the other nationalities to make a difference. So, at the end of the day, the personal relationships of the candidates to their fellow classmates did come to play a significant part, based on this view. Wait, am I writing an essay answer here? J

At the end of voting, the results were in favour of our new Second Year Law Rep, Malike Kellier. Congratulations, Malike. Job well done. Keep up the good work. Also, congratulations to Andre Bascoe, our new Education and Mooting Chairperson. He is a ridiculously bright young man. Also, Jamaican :)

Pit: The Cross-Faculty Representative gave a most dull speech with quite the lackadaisical attitude
Peak: Seeing my colleagues- nationality aside- show up with an interest in hearing what the candidates had to offer

Malike at the debates

Andre at the debates. He ran against No Confidence. i.e. he was the only nominee but  we could still vote saying we had no confidence in him to fill the post


  1. Interesting piece, no surprises here, it was the same culture while I was there. It will become even more intense when Guild Elections come along, which is almost always a case of Barbadians vs Non-Nationals. But the Political landscape at the Hill, is quite interesting. Politics though for the most part at the Hill is more a case of popularity over issues (same can be said throughout the Caribbean). Of course, people tend to vote for individuals they feel comfortable with not necessarily individuals they are confident in (sometimes this is the case). On another note, because the campus is so small, you are automatically forced to become involved in the politics, especially if you see things happening or not happening (as was mostly the case in my day 2005-2009). All in all, Cave Hill's politics can be best described as unique or is it?