Since January 1949, when the Charter of the University (College) of the West Indies was officially passed under the Great Seal of the UK, the panoply of the university’s dignitaries have included The Visitor. For nearly seven decades, that personage was the British Monarch. No more! A new Visitor, from the Caribbean region, is in place.
In 1971, the UWI repatriated the role of Chancellor. The first Chancellor, appointed while all the member states were still British colonies, had been British Princess Princess Alice, Countess of Athlone, cousin of King George VI, the British Monarch who agreed that first Charter; and who agreed to the role of Visitor. Subsequent Charters – in 1962 when the UCWI became the independent, degree-granting UWI, and in 1972 when a new document reflected governance changes at the university – were agreed by George’s daughter, Queen Elizabeth II; and continued the formal connection of the Crown via the role of Visitor.
In 2018, the UWI requested amendments to the Charter, which were granted in November. The UWI’s highest authority, the Council, gained the right to appoint as Visitor of the University, “a regional figure of high judicial office”, on the recommendation of the President of the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ). By statute, the Visitor’s primary role is settling disputes between the university and it’s staff/students. After an interim period during which Justice Paul Harrison had the role, the Council has appointed Justice Rolston Nelson, a Belizean Justice sworn to the CCJ in 2005, as Visitor with effect May 1, 2019.