Is there any difference between vice-chancellors and party leaders?

Siam Sarower Jamil | Updated at 12:36am on September 22, 2019

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Currently voices are rising against a number of vice-chancellors because of their involvement in corruption, nepotism and illegal activities. In most cases, they were appointed for their political affiliation with the ruling Awami League. Many of them have previously served in leadership posts in Awami league affiliated student and youth organisations. If this is the case with the bosses of public universities, what actually they are offering for the future generation? Rising this question, Siam Sarower Jamil urges a uniform policy to appoint vice-chancellors

JAHANGIRNAGAR University vice-chancellor professor Farzana Islam is now ‘talk of the country’ because of her involvement in corruption. She has given Tk 2 crore to Bangladesh Chhatra League as 'Eid Gift' from the development project of the university. And the two central top leaders of, BCL Shovon and Rabbani, demanded their ‘fare share’. They were sacked from their posts after the incident went viral. Now demand is being raised for investigation of corruption against Farzana. She has been accused of giving contract of the development project to her husband, son, and relatives. There have also been allegations of hiring new teachers in exchange for money. A car is allotted for her but she uses four cars.

Khandaker Nasir Uddin, vice-chancellor of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman Science and Technology University, Gopalganj, is now in talks with his rough language. ‘What's the function of the university? — Fatema Tuz Zinia, a female student posted this question on Facebook. VC was not only offended by the scandal, but also suspended the student temporarily. He cannot tolerate any criticism on social media. He gave notice of suspension to 27 students within the last year. In his words, ‘I built the university so you can read, or else you would have to walk the streets like a vagabond’. The VC has also been accused of sexual scandal. Along with allegations of immoral behaviour with students, he allegedly impregnated a female employee of the university. The Woman made that announcement at a press conference.

Professor Akhtaruzzaman, VC to University of Dhaka, is criticised for various reasons. Major allegation against him is that he shelters all the misdeeds of the ruling party's student wing on campus. In the name of investigation, he concealed all the attacks of BCL on general students in the last year. Though Chhatra League leaders were admitted in DU illegally to participate in the DUCSU elections, he is not taking any action against them. And he is also accused of 'election engineering' in the last DUCSU polls. At the same time, he concealed another illegal recruitment trade of Chhatra league leaders at Rokeya Hall.

The authorities could not decide yet who would be appointed as the VC of Chittagong University because there is a lot of competition among the candidates in the post. All of them are now ruling Awami League supporters. Therefore, pro-VC Shirin Akhtar is appointed temporarily to handle the campus. Former VC professor Iftekhar Uddin Chowdhury received widespread criticism last December by appointing 142 people on permanent and temporary basis. He has appointed relatives of teachers and officers loyal to him, as well as former BCL leaders, even expelled students and plaintiffs. In the last March-April, he appointed 23 officers and employees in the same way.

Nazmul Ahsan Kalimullah is the VC of Begum Rokeya University, Rangpur. He is doing his job from Dhaka. Most of the time, he is on leave. Even he took oral tests on telephone from Dhaka. There are allegations of hiring his own people. Yet he survives. Former VC AKM Noor Un Nabi was equally controversial. He left Rangpur at midnight in charges of corruption under security of police. He served in 12 positions simultaneously including the treasurer. He was accused of corruption and abuse of power. Irregularities on the admission test and upgrade for money, voluntary use of government cars, absence of continuity in university, holding five posts simultaneously, harassment of teachers and officers.

Mizanur Rahman, Vice-Chancellor of Jagannath University, is also well-known for his political activity. He has been accused of making the post of ‘special officer’ which is illegal and recruiting 12 Chhatra League leaders without notice of appointment. ‘I am obliged to give jobs to the BCL leaders,’ he told a newspaper. ‘The employed were hard working student leaders. Two of them are from Gopalganj. This is their biggest identity’, he added. The VC had served as the central leader of the Jubo League.

Vice-Chancellor of the University of Barisal, SM Imamul Haque was criticised for his abusive words like 'Rajakarer Bachcha' to the students. After that, he was forced to leave the university. Similarly, Noahkhali University of Science and Technology VC M Ahiduzzaman was forced to leave campus last June in the face of allegations and irregularities at the campus. He was a major leader of BCL at DU. Professor M Abdus Sobhan, VC of Rajshahi University, has changed the recruitment rules to appoint his daughter and son-in-law as a teacher in university.

There are a lot of crisis in other government universities due to the negative activity of VC's. Maximum VCs are former leaders of ruling party’s different wings. Everyone is somehow involved in the politics of the ruling Awami League. Negative political activities of the VCs have raised questions. Who are being placed in the highest rank of a nation's higher educational institutions? What qualifies them? How many of them have passes the criteria of morality? If they find themselves involved in such corruption and factionalism, then what will their students learn? If a professor is sold to money and party loyalty, then what is the difference between them and a common politician?

There are no guidelines to appoint a VC. All are appointed by political considerations, not merit or quality. As a result, those who are VCs do not qualify for the post. And they feel empowered by being politically appointed. They get involved in immoral activities. They misused the position of VC. They don't understand how to operate a university with morality but understand business policy. There are 50 government universities in the country, among them four are running under the University Ordinance 1973, which became a law later. According to the rules, authority arranges an election in the senate for the position of VC. The president appoints one of the three highest vote getters from the list. But none of the four universities now has a VC selected in this process. The rest of the universities have different laws. But according to that law, there is no election process in those universities. So the president can appoint the VC in political consideration.

People expect the highest morality and neutrality from a teacher. But the fact is s/he may have been disqualified to be VC if s/he had these good abilities or qualities. Now the main qualification to be VC is party loyalty and this is the rule of any government. Why would a teacher be involved in a political party directly? Why should the VCs bend the knees to the ruling political party?

Why VC of any public university need to attend any political programme?  Why couldn’t he keep himself away from politics? His main duty is to maintain proper educational environment for the students, and aid to open new areas for research work and to collaborate with the government for the overall betterment of the university. Why can't he be beyond nepotism?  How many teachers are there who are being respected by not only the general students but also by the mass people? When our whole nation is in trouble, will you find any teacher from whom people want to hear anything for a solution? And what is the actual number of solid, intellectual, worthy, free from backstroking teachers nowadays?

Transparency International Bangladesh (TIB), an international anti-corruption organisation, has created an ethical mannerism rule for teachers. They say, ‘As teachers are the builder of the civilised people for future, which means they are the manufacturer of the better judge, administrator, journalist, poet, doctor, engineer, politician literary people so like other sectors teachers should obey some code of conduct decided by the government.’

The contribution of students and teachers in any movement of Bangla is historic and remarkable. Because of the inability to go beyond nepotism and inability to prioritise the mass interests instead of their self-interest, they are losing their popularity which is not expected. Regarding this crucial situation, a clear code of conduct should be introduced to assigning VC. Otherwise, no one could stop the destruction of the higher education system of the country.

Siam Sarower Jamil is a young journalist and writer