THE decision of Khulna University to take action by expelling three teachers and two students for their alleged involvement in a student movement — which pushed for demands, including admission fee reduction, accommodation crisis resolution and improved health service facilities, in January 2020 — appears to be worrying. The University Teachers Network, a platform of public and private university teachers, in a statement on Thursday termed the move ‘repressive and alarming’ that is against democratic rights of teachers and students of public universities. The points that the students pushed for and the teachers supported in no way appear to be a political agenda or an attempt at disrupting university activities. They, rather, address issues that affect students. Students have the right to push for the rights that they are entitled to and for what they require. It is also expected that teachers and university authorities, who are moral and legal guardians of the students, would heed students’ rightful demands. The move of Khulna University, in such a context, appears to be muzzling the dissent of teachers and students.
What is further surprising is the haste with which the processes and procedures of the termination move are taken by the authorities. The authorities are reported to have called two syndicate meetings in a week on an incident that took place a year ago and the accused were given only 36 hours to explain their position while the accused are usually given more time in such cases. Students and teachers of the university have alleged that there has been hurry on part of the vice-chancellor, scheduled to serve out his tenure on January 30, to push the job to an end. One of the accused teachers seeks to explain, as New Age has reported, that many university teachers have been pro-students and have always stood by students’ rightful demands risking their career and lives in the past and the case at hand is not different.
The university authorities must, in such a situation, take time, weigh properly what happened in January 2020 and then take action, if needed. Being autonomous institutions, public universities must not lose their integrity. When a growing number of vice-chancellors and top officials in public universities are appointed on political considerations, manipulating rules and regulations, and when there are allegations against many vice-chancellors for cosying up to power, Khulna University authorities must be cautious in taking such a decision that might destroy the lives and career of the accused teachers and the students and set a bad precedent.
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