PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad, Wednesday November 15, 2017 – The University of the West Indies (UWI) is changing the name of one of the halls of residence at the St Augustine Campus after almost a century of it bearing the name of a man now accepted as having been racist.
The UWI said the Milner Hall of Residence, so named 90 years ago after a British Colonial Governor in South Africa Lord Alfred Milner at the turn of the 20th century, will get a name change.
This follows the university’s Finance and General Purposes Committee (F&GPC) – which comprises all stakeholders, from governments to graduates – accepting a unanimous recommendation from the UWI Senior Executive Management. The recommendation came at the end of three months of internal discussion, some of which the university said was divisive and at times emotionally charged.
UWI Pro Vice-Chancellor Cobley, a Professor of South African history, had been asked by Vice-Chancellor Sir Hilary Beckles to investigate Milner’s life and make recommendations with respect to his fitness to be celebrated as an icon within the university.
A UWI statement explained that the Cobley Report sets out, among other things: Milner’s political identity as a self-proclaimed “British race supremacist”; his role as a formulator of British racial theory in which he described Africans as “savages”; the part he played as a founder of the criminal system of racial apartheid which was institutionalized in South Africa in 1948; the principal part he played as an architect of brutal Indian indentured servitude in the colony; his role as a proponent of military colonialism in Africa and Asia as the God given right of the English; and his function as an aggressive imperialist who is known for his part in the crimes against humanity committed in Africa.
The university said the hall of residence took Lord Milner’s name in 1927 when he contributed to the Imperial College of Tropical Agriculture established in Trinidad, to train white colonialists, with a view to creating a pool of frontier farmers to settle on lands in the Empire taken from natives.
“Milner saw this strategy as necessary to secure the long-term future of British rule in Africa, Asia and Australia.
“Milner’s active political hostility to the human and civil rights of Africans, Asians, and devastated indigenous people, propelled his anger towards the early Pan-Africanists such as Sylvester Williams and Marcus Garvey, as well as Indian nationalists such as Mahatma Gandhi. He was a vehement opposer of Independence movements and saw nationalists as criminal and dangerous subverters of empire,” the statement added.
The UWI noted that Milner’s role as a foundation thinker of apartheid had gone largely undetected for decades in the Caribbean, but the global movement to highlight his political crimes in Africa was now connecting to The UWI’s effort to “clean-up its internal colonial legacies as an independent university”.
According to The UWI, Sir Hilary – himself an historian and a UNESCO editor of the General History of Africa — acknowledged that he wasn’t aware until two years ago while lecturing at the University of Johannesburg that the Milner who committed the crimes against humanity in South Africa in service of the British Empire was the same person whose identity is emblazoned on The UWI St Augustine Campus.
“The discovery of this truth has invited The UWI to reaffirm its commitment to the principle of justice for all regardless of race, colour or religion, and to turn its back on all forms of racial discriminatory practices,” the university said.
“While recognizing that the gravity of the matter is one that transcends the St Augustine Campus and threatens the reputation of The UWI as a whole, the F&GPC has asked that the management and student leadership of the St Augustine Campus complete its internal consultations with a view to proposing an alternate name for the Hall by mid-December 2017.”