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The University of Dhaka – the country’s highest ranking seat of learning – is fast losing its past glory and is about to enter into a big crisis of its own identity instead. It is also of its own making. The crisis has been imperceptibly hitting it in the back by way of deliberate politicization of the administration for decades. Now, the present administration of this premier institution is not allowing it to function as per the rule of law and indulging in parochial attitude.
Recently the crisis has assumed a new dimension with the election process of a three-member panel for appointment of the Vice Chancellor of the University by the members of Dhaka University Syndicate. President is to appoint one of the three in the panel as the new Vice Chancellor. However, the Supreme Court, responding to a writ petition, has stayed it for three months.
SC has stepped in
The problem is that posts of 50 members of 105-member Syndicate are lying vacant and are to be elected. Instead of taking steps for the election to the posts of the vacant Syndicate members, the incumbent VC Mr Arifin Siddiqui held a special general meeting of the senate with 50 out of a total of 105 senators’ post lying vacant. The Special Syndicate meeting named the incumbent VC for the next term with two incumbent pro-VCs to continue as the VC and pro-VCs. This has infuriated a large section of the DU teachers.
Teachers opposed to the politics of the ruling party in the campus challenged the VC’s move in the High Court through a writ in July to prevent him from doing so. They asked for court order to fill up the vacant seats of the Syndicate members first before holding such special meeting to select the VC panel.
The High Court accepted the plea and stayed the panel election. However, the VC moved the case to the chamber Judge who removed the stay and allowed the special Syndicate meeting to take place. The opposing group then again appealed to the full bench of the Supreme Court and got the stay again for three months. The court ruled that the DU Syndicate should be fully constituted to elect the VC panel. The Syndicate’s 45 posts of members have fallen vacant since last year and no attempt was made to hold election and constitute the full senate.
Meanwhile, the question of Dhaka University Central Students Union (DUCSU) election which did not take place since 1991 has also been raised afresh recently. This has been depriving the senate of five students’ representatives to make their cases in its important decision-making process. It appears the VC is determined to run the DU based on the support of the senate members who are part of the ruling party politics. Others have been systematically left out the process.
Process of degeneration
The incumbent VC has served the DU for two terms since 2009 and is seemingly determined to go for another term. Had there been a free election for the VC panel, senators would have been able at least freely select new candidates to introduce fresh blood and dynamism to run the august institution.
But even those teachers who subscribe to the ruling party’s politics have described the VC’s efforts as unbecoming of a person holding such a position. They say, if the ruling party wants to control the DU politics, there are other eligible candidates to chose from and avoid its image being tarnished before the nation.
Media reports tend to suggest that politicization of DU by the incumbent VC during his tenure is likely to whip up more controversy in the DU campus. There were about 1,200 teachers in DU when he joined as VC in 2009 which has risen to 1992 now. Teachers were appointed without advertisements and in certain cases teachers were appointed without even having a post-graduate degree.
Senior faculty members alleged that most of the appointments were made based on political linkages, regionalism and lobbying by powerful people and not on the basis of quality. The main reason behind mass recruitments is believed to consolidate power and increase the number of voters to ensure victory of ruling party backed candidates in senate election, VC selection etc.
What is more disturbing is that political loyalty now counts more over candidates’ merit in the recruitment of teachers. A daily newspaper reported that better academic results and excellent post-grade degrees were compromised while recruiting at least 750 teachers.
The Dhaka University deserves to be one of the excellent universities in the region is losing ground and it is generally believed that till the politicization process is stamped out, the chances of a recovery for the institution is very slim. In fact, this is the situation in all public universities.
It concerns all
A glaring example of AL intervention in university management is that one of its MPs last year chased the VC of Rajshahi University into his office chamber and forced him to recruit party members in teaching and office jobs. No doubt, it was one of extreme cases to cite, but the fact that such things happen only because of political partisanship.
Who can say that the universities are centers of knowledge, and not the center for political activism, mugging and killing? Many students were killed alone in Dhaka University campus over the past years and practically ceased to be a centre of knowledge.
The situation started worsening with criminal indoctrination of students in politics sheltered by the successive regimes in power. It is also shocking that the ruling party supported student leaders are not allowing leaders of the opposition student groups any space in the campus. But university campuses cannot be the battleground for the students.
Dhaka University Students Union elections each year used to focus on many student leaders with leadership quality who subsequently became the country’s top bureaucrats, lawyers and luminaries in the judiciary, and prominent political leaders. In fact, students only with excellent academic results were being chosen and encouraged to run as the VPs or GSs of DUCSU and other Dormitory Hall Students Union Committees. When the time came, those young student leaders also led the liberation from the front.
Now DUCSU elections are not being held for decades and so no new leaders are coming out through the processes. These days, students don’t have to have excellent academic results to become students’ leaders. Analysts say, these days, campuses are encouraged to produce only anti-social elements and tough guys to become the cadres of the student front under the protection of party politics. Academic results have taken a back seat.
The question, however, is not who will be the VC or pro-VCs, it is the question of future leadership that partisan campus politics is not allowing to take roots. It can’t continue and People believe there has to be a way out of it.