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Abuse of power is ruinous to people, systems, institutions

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

The misuse of power has long been an issue set aside by women and men perhaps on some unspoken code, which says to expose abuse of any nature is to end up with a bad reflection of oneself. Nonetheless, the current revelations of abuse and sexual impropriety in the news do not at all surprise me—a day had to come. And, let me say quickly, I am not expecting to see any mushrooming of such exposés in T&T.

Somehow social systems like ours seem to barricade bad behaviour if only in the derogatory responses that are meted out to the few who dare to object—shaming, blaming, and deriding the abused rather than placing blame where it is rightly due is popular here.

I have come to learn it is the people within and often in charge of the systems/institutions who overlook unethical individuals, dereliction, abuse of power, and breaches of rules and regulations who pave the way for graver infractions.

Today, I am writing about my injury so I can heal. And no, this is not about sexual abuse, but the willingness of institutions to ignore abuses and overreaching of authority, possibly to protect their own or themselves.

Usually I would set aside these matters, but the unabating distress and the weeks of suffering leave me wondering how many others are suffering and are stuffing their injury as a Thanksgiving turkey (that could only mean you’ll end up roasted or fried).

Many celebrated with me on my becoming a Master of Public Health With Distinction. Many others knew the constant turmoil getting there. Many did not know that a day came when I could not leave the bed or the bedroom, such was the depth of the depression caused by the institutional mishandling I was made to suffer.

Last September, at the hand of a coordinator, whose history of flouting the regulations, my research paper in a master’s programme was graded (unusually) with regulations from a PhD programme. When I inquired I was told, “Those are the rules.”

Not one to be railroaded, and having already suffered at the puerile quips and throwing of words in a semester where I objected to the conspiring to place an examination where a research project was approved, I stood my ground. I wrote the Campus Registrar the next day.

I graduated on October 28 after eventually complaining to The UWI Deputy Principal upon realising five days before that the powers at the Medial Sciences Faculty possibly were too busy to deal with my six-week-old query or to care if I got the correct grade or if I graduated in 2017—the difference in the mark down meant I would not have graduated with distinction.

To date, no one has answered my questions. I am left wondering if this grading decision was one of inexperience, carelessness, vindictiveness, or a genuine error? I did indicate to the Deputy Principal that I have a file full of concerns about the fledgling MPH programme—I am the only one from a cohort of 18 who finished and graduated. He promised an audience.

But these are little matters where “big” men are concerned. And when they believe they have the power, to them, someone like me coming up against them is probably just nuisance level noise. Perhaps too, this may be powerful men thinking of my issue and me as less—beneath their office and standing. This is just the perfect nesting for greater abuses. Such abuses and the support given within institutions are a telling tale of the “empathy deficits” and “impulsiveness” we see today breaking big men and bigger institutions.

I am stumped by the callousness of a regional institution boasting all manner of governing competencies. I am petrified about pursuing further studies at The UWI. I am quaking from the dis-ease with which abuse is managed. This, I believe is exactly that which gives people the facility to do graver wrongs, without recourse.

• Caroline C Ravello is a strategic communication and media professional and a public health practitioner. She holds an MA with Merit in Mass Communications (University of Leicester) and is a Master of Public Health With Distinction (The UWI). Write to: [email protected]


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