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4 September, 2015 00:00 00 AM

VCs common target

Campus unrest in public varsities
Harun Ur Rashid

A plethora of problems related to the vice-chancellors (VCs) of several public universities in the country has badly affected the academic atmosphere of the higher educational institutions in recent times.
Teachers and students have frequently levelled allegations against several VCs, seeking their resignations. When the VCs have refused to step down, teachers and students have organised movements demanding their dismissal. ‘Session jam’ is just one of the consequences.
Sometimes the agitations have taken a serious turn, leading to violence on campus.
Such universities include the Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (BUET), Jahangirnagar University (JU), Begum Rokeya University, Rangpur, and Bangladesh Agricultural University (BAU).
Currently, Shahjalal University of Science and Technology (SUST), in Sylhet, is witnessing a crisis over its VC, Prof. Md Aminul Haque, who took up the post on July 28, 2013.
Sources said, on April 13 this year, three teachers went to the VC to discuss distribution of classrooms. He allegedly did not give them enough time and, instead, had an altercation with them. A faction of pro-Awami League teachers, under the banner of ‘Mahan Muktijuddher Chetonay Udbuddho Shikkhak Parishad', issued an ultimatum to the VC, demanding his resignation by April 19, accusing him of engaging in corruption in recruitment, practising nepotism and misbehaving with colleagues.
When their demands went unheeded, on April 20, some 35 teachers, including Prof. Mohammad Zafar Iqbal, a prominent academic and author, resigned from 37 administrative posts and announced their agenda.
On April 23, the VC called an emergency meeting of the syndicate and took two months’ leave. But the teachers stuck to their guns.
On June 22, the VC returned and assumed office, and appointed a new proctor and a hall provost, angering the teachers. They locked the main entrance of the administrative building, where the VC was present. On June 25, the irate teachers published a white paper against the VC, alleging his involvement in corruption.
On the other hand, another section of Leftist, pro-Awami teachers, on June 29, supported the VC. On June 30, they said they would protest the teachers' movement, if it is continued after the Eid-ul-Fitr vacation.
As part of the ongoing programme, on September 30, activists of the Bangladesh Chhatra League (BCL) attacked these teachers, including Dr Yesmeen Huq, wife of Prof. Iqbal.
The Mahan Muktijuddher Chetanay Udbuddha Shikkhak Parishad recently announced a sit-in protest in front of the Administrative Building.
Yesterday, the students expressed their solidarity with the teachers and issued a 48-hour ultimatum to the VC, to step down. They also threatened to organise a more intensive movement, at a three-hour token hunger-strike yesterday.

Again, the BAU’s VC, Rafiqul Haque, quit on April 7, 2015, when the pro-Awami League teachers’ association, Ganotantrik Shikkhak Forum, demanded his resignation over corruption in recruitment of employees, and sexual abuse of a university female staff member, and organised an agitation. The University Grants Commission (UGC) formed a probe committee and found the VC’s involvement in illegal recruitment and sexual abuse.
Two VCs of Jahangirnagar University—Prof. Shariff Enamul Kabir and Prof. Anwar Hossain—were also at the eye of a storm in 2012. Even the current VC of Jahangirnagar, Prof. Farzana Islam, has allegedly been involved in irregularities in the recruitment of teachers.
BUET also witnessed trouble over the appointment of a pro-VC, who, ultimately, had to resign.
Begum Rokeya University in Rangpur saw its VC, Muhammad Abdul Jalil Miah, resign on charges of corruption and irregularities.
Serajul Islam Choudhury, professor emeritus of Dhaka University, told The Independent that such problems arise mainly when VCs fail to earn the trust of people, including teachers and students of their respective universities.
“Those appointed as VCs try to provide patronage to teachers backed by the ruling party, while others are neglected. Sometimes, the VCs are appointed from outside the universities, but that is not a problem. The most important matter is that they have to earn trust,” he observed.
“Generally, it is seen that VCs owe allegiance to a particular party as they are appointed by the government. But, when they are appointed as VCs, they should forget that, and work for all,” he said.
UGC chairman Prof. Abdul Mannan told The Independent that it is not desirable that universities should be closed for a single minute, as a result of internal problems.
“There are multiple reasons why the public universities are closed down, such as allegations against the VCs, demands raised by students, teachers and employees, etc. But, the universities should not be closed for even a single minute, as they are run using taxpayers’ money,” he pointed out.
“If any allegation is made against the VCs and/or pro-VCs, action should be taken rapidly after conducting investigations, so that the academic atmosphere is not vitiated,” he added.


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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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