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UTT fires animation pioneer

Another legal battle looms
Published: 
Monday, August 3, 2015
Camille Selvon-Abrahams

Local animation pioneer Camille Selvon-Abrahams has vowed to sue the University of T&T after she was summarily fired and escorted by security off the John Donaldson campus on Friday. Selvon-Abrahams, in an interview with the T&T Guardian following the incident, said she has consulted her attorneys as well as her representative trade union about her sudden dismissal. 

The UTT lecturer, who is an animator and heads FilmTT, said Friday’s action took her by surprise as she was not given formal notice or an official reason for her dismissal. “This came to me like something in the night, it has never happened. There was never a verbal warning, there is nothing I could say to you officially that would explain why this happened,” she said. 

Selvon-Abrahams, who is noted for starting this country’s first tertiary animation programme and is the founder of the Animé Caribe Animation Festival, said she is not going to take her dismissal lightly. “I am taking it further. I think it is a defamation of my character, I think it is grounds for wrongful dismissal. I cannot fathom why they would do this knowing of the value that I bring to the department. It is a very specialist area, it is not like you could pull someone out of the crowd,” she said. 

Selvon-Abrahams said her contract with UTT came to an end in June, but she was allowed to continue in her position. Subsequent to that she said she was informed by UTT management that they needed someone with a PhD for the head of the department. 

“I have a degree and I have 15 years of service to this country. I have 15 years experience in building up networks when it comes to creative industry and I do believe I have a certain amount of respect internationally, regionally and locally that, I think, is far more than a piece of paper that I have a PhD, that was the reason given (for my dismissal),” she said. 

It is understood that Dr Christian Ramlogan is being considered for the position at UTT and Selvon-Abrahams was removed to make way for his entry. Another UTT lecturer, who requested anonymity for fear of victimisation, said what happened to Selvon-Abrahams was unfair and unjustified.
“They wanted to replace her with someone they wanted. She is the department, it is a very sad day for all of us,” the lecturer said.

The lecturer is claiming that politics were at play in Selvon-Abrahams’ dismissal. The lecturer also objected to the manner in which the department head was treated on Friday. One of Selvon-Abrahams’ students, who identified herself only as Jessica, said her classmates are meeting to discuss what action they can take to have Selvon-Abrahams reinstated. She said the sudden dismissal had left students confused and hurt.

“We want answers on why she was removed. Why was she fired? Under what circumstances? How can we get her back? We want to know,” she said. When contacted on Friday, Sandra Gunness, UTT senior manager corporate communications, said she was not aware of the incident. She said she was in a meeting at the time and could not comment. 

Calls to her cellphone later went to voicemail.

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