Today, March 8, is International Women’s Day (IWD). The administration, faculty and staff of the University of the Southern Caribbean wholeheartedly embrace this opportunity to celebrate the being and contributions of our women-folk to our families, workplaces, schools, churches, villages, nations, and the innumerable other physical and relational spaces where humans practice community.
The accepted origins of the celebration of IWD goes back to 1909 when at the suggestion of the Ukrainian-American labour-activist, writer and suffragette Theresa Serber Malkiel the Socialist Party of America – yes socialist and yes United States of America – observed what they called a “National Woman’s Day on the last day of the month of February that year, a Sunday. New York City was the epicenter of that antecedent observance. It was an election year, and as pervasive and bi-partisan as ‘progressivism’ had become to mainstream American politics, women’s rights, worker’s rights and that of minorities remained subordinate to affluent white patriarchy, leaving many in the US undone, disappointed and disenfranchised.
The historically busy Atlantic Ocean would transplant the idea to the European continent and on March 19, 1911 International Women’s Day – so named – was observed for the first time by more than a million people in several European countries. Like in the USA – where there continued for quite some time to be the celebration of National Women’s Day on the last Sunday in February – in Europe, too, the focus of the observances centered around protests against the political disenfranchisement of adult women, gender discrimination in the workplace and the inequality of opportunities to prosper.
Unsurprisingly, with the triumph of the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia in 1917, IWD was accorded the status of a public holiday in that country. This pattern would accompany the national adoption of socialist-communist ideology in various other countries in Eurasia as the Soviets expanded their sphere of influence.
In the late 1960s and into the 1970s and 1980s with the rise of what is sometimes referred to as the second wave of feminism, when equal pay, the push back against violence against women, maternity benefits, sexual and reproductive rights and other such contemporary rights-issues for women and girls were being intellectually developed into their existing form, IWD was wrested from the social communist world and globalized. It was during this period that it was belatedly adopted by the United Nations in 1975.
For us in the Caribbean, grappling as we still are with emancipation and postcoloniality, living with our hard-wired histories that include conquest, enslavement, indentureship and the ruthless exploitations of our land and our labour by foreign capital interests, our appreciation of IWD must not be permitted to come from the artificial place of an adopted narrative of a comparatively recent exposure to abuses and troubles. It seems that our people, our women are, and will be, because they never surrendered and habitually and courageously “#choose to challenge”.
The board of trustees, administration, faculty, staff, students and community of the University of the Southern Caribbean deeply mourn the recent passing of the late Dr. Esther Simmons. We express our heartfelt condolences to her husband, Dr. George Carlington ‘Charlie’ Simmons and to her living step-children of two marriages, Roselyn, Cynthia, Angela, George and Cheryl.
Our collective mourning is conjugated to this occasion to celebrate the life, work and legacy of this justly virtuous woman. Born into unpretentious circumstances in the British colony of Barbados on October 20, 1924, Dr. Esther Simmons nee Osbourne began her higher education journey at Caribbean Training College (now called the University of the Southern Caribbean). She was a proud member of the class of 1947, which marked the twentieth anniversary of this now ninety-three-year-old institution.
From this sure foundation, Esther Simmons through faith and perseverance, proceeded to go beyond excellence, to live a full life as an extraordinary servant of God to humanity. Her academic adventures led her to Oakwood College (now Oakwood University) in Huntsville, Alabama where she earned a BA in English with a minor in History. She then went on to Andrews University in Berrien Springs, Michigan where she successfully pursued an MA in English. Howard University in Washington, D.C. next beckoned and she responded, carrying with her the cultivated habit to succeed and taking away from Howard University, a Doctor of Philosophy in English. She was not finished. She would also pursue post-doctoral studies at colleges of the prestigious Cambridge and Oxford Universities in the United Kingdom.
As an academic, educator and higher education administrator, she devoted the greater share of her career to Bowie State University, the oldest HBCU in the State of Maryland in the United States of America. There she served with distinction, earning her an enviable flight of appointments and promotions including, Professor of English, Chair of the English Department, Head of the Division of the Humanities, Vice President for Academic Administration, Provost and Assistant to the President. Her distinguished service also attracted citations and awards. Dr. Simmons was also actively involved in professional, civic and community organizations and with their work. At the time of her passing, she held the title Professor Emerita and Provost Emerita of Bowie State University.
Dr. Esther Simmons, was ceaseless in her fidelity, devotion, and generosity to what was most probably her favourite alma mater, the University of the Southern Caribbean. This affection for USC was something she and her husband ‘Charlie’ deeply shared. So deep it ran, that when in October of 2003, Caribbean Union College, as it was then known, suddenly required leadership, she and her husband furloughed the pleasures of contented retirement to assume the demanding roles of interim President and Assistant to the interim President respectively. The chronicles of the History of USC therefore records the very experienced Dr. Esther Simmons as the twenty-fourth President of our noble institution.
A decorated soldier of the cross has been called home to rest after serving distinguished tours of duty. Psalm 116:15 informs us that “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints. The Lord counts it as “precious” that Dr. Esther Simmons is done with the troubles of this world.
May we allow this exemplary and virtuous life to inspire us.
The Memorial Service for Dr. Esther Simmons will be held on Monday, February 22, 2021 at 3:05pm.
View on YouTube: https://youtu.be/j7f-61wilDo
USC is cognizant of the hardships created by the Covid-19 pandemic as we continue to engage our stakeholders to amicably resolve issues that are brought to our attention by our students. In response to the recent public protest of some members of the 2020 graduating class, the President’s Cabinet of the University of the Southern Caribbean has decided to hold a Conferral Ceremony on the 9th October, 2020 and cancel the previously scheduled Virtual Graduation Ceremony.
Diplomas will be distributed to all students who have satisfied the requirements for graduation without charge, from the 12th October, 2020. Students who have made graduation fees payments can contact the Student Finance Office for their refund. Those students from this graduating class who are desirous of participating in our next graduation ceremony can contact the registrar’s office to register their interest before the end of this semester.
Covid-19 has had a significant impact on the tertiary education industry and USC has commissioned research to measure the impacts on our stakeholders and the various aspects of our operations. These studies will guide the university in making evidence based decisions in our response to this Covid-19 crisis.
The University of the Southern Caribbean has been providing quality tertiary education for 93 years. As a Seventh-day Adventist Higher Education institution, we pride ourselves in providing support to all our students through a holistic tertiary education experience. Since the outbreak of the pandemic in March this year, the university has waived the registration fees for the summer, waived the application fees for this academic year, awarded $1.5 million in education assistance, provided 50% discount of the registration fees to all students registering this semester, provided discounts in specific Master degree programmes, disbursed relief assistance to students enduring financial difficulties and provided payment plans to assist our students to comfortably continue their studies.
USC remains committed to moulding and preparing students to become extraordinary leaders in the global marketplace.
The USC graduation exercise comprises three days of consecration, celebration and thanksgiving for our students’ scholastic achievement. We look forward once again, to the time when we can share this momentous occasion with our beloved students and their families.
On Monday, July 13, 2020 the Accreditation Council of Trinidad and Tobago (ACTT) hosted a ceremony at which the University of the Southern Caribbean was presented with its certificate of Institutional Accreditation.
This grand moment came as a result of The Board of Directors of the ACTT approving the status of Institutional Accreditation for the University of the Southern Caribbean for the next seven year.
The University is very grateful as it signifies that it has met all educational quality standards and stands as a credible tertiary education institution.
USC wishes to express gratitude to its Administration, Faculty, Staff and Student Body who have all worked hard and made many sacrifices for the University to achieved this goal.