Government mustn’t lay its partisan hands on public universities

Published: 00:00, Sep 21,2019 | Updated: 00:03, Sep 21,2019


FOUR of the public universities — the premier University of Dhaka, Jahangirnagar University, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman Science and Technology University in Gopalganj and the Islamic University in Kushtia — have made the headlines for wrong reasons after having run into trouble, all in a different manner but all for almost the same reason — corruption and irregularities. Students, later joined in by a section of teachers, in almost all the four universities have stood up against corruption of the people at the helm of the universities. In the University of Dhaka, protests have demanded the removal of the vice-chancellor over frauds in the admission of leaders of the Chhatra League, the student wing of the ruling Awami League. Protests in Jahangirnagar University, which have been going on since August 23, have demanded the resignation of the vice-chancellor by October 1 over corruption centring on the construction of three halls of residence, felling hundreds of trees and the associated corruption which involved some ranking leaders of the Chhatra League. Protests at Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman Science and Technology University, which began with the suspension of a student for her Facebook posting, have demanded the resignation of the vice-chancellor. Protests in the Islamic University have flared up with a section of the Chhatra League standing up against a rival faction on allegations of corruption.

A situation like this — not the protests, although they would certainly hamper academic and administrative functions of the universities, but the involvement of ranking officials in corruption and irregularities — brings on the nation heaps of shame especially when student political leaders, even if a few of them, could enter the university without taking the admission tests, ranking officials are involved in corruption and authorities of the universities, supposed to encourage dissenting voice, cannot go easy with criticism of the prevalent partisan narratives. This remains to be further worrying as what has happened in the four universities, as some seek to say, is reflective of what happens in other universities. While leaders of student politics, especially of the ruling party of the day, grab every opportunity to spin out money of the system, it is the teachers and other ranking officials of the university administration who create the scopes by engaging themselves in corruption and irregularities and by dishing out favours to protect their own interest. What adds to such a shameful state of affairs is that the University Grants Commission, which has showed negligence, lenience or unwillingness in many cases, is reported to have been investigating former and incumbent vice-chancellors of six public universities for recruitment corruption, embezzlement, favouritism and sexual harassment. They are vice-chancellors of Maulana Bhashani University Science and Technology University in Tangail, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman Science and Technology University and Islamic Arabic University in Dhaka and former vice-chancellors of the University of Barisal, the University of Chittagong and Jessore University of Science and Technology.

While much of the shameful situation stems from personal or collective greed, or dishonesty, of the people involved in corruption, partisan political support — born out of successive government’s political considerations in the appointment of ranking university officials and management of the university administration through partisan means — appear to have taken the situation to such a pass. While the University Grants Commission must look into the corruption at hand, and the ones that have taken place in the past, and hold people responsible to account, the government must stop using any political considerations in the running of the universities and the appointment of the officials.

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