THE education ministry’s announcement terming the recruitment of 141 people in different positions in Rajshahi University in breach of the ministry’s earlier embargo on recruitment illegal and the formation of a committee to investigate the issue and identify the people responsible therein are welcome. The outgoing vice-chancellor appointed the 141 people, including nine teachers and 23 officers, on his last working day on May 6 violating a ban of December 2020 on any appointment until further notice. The ministry imposed the embargo based on a University Grants Commission investigation that found evidence of corruption against the vice-chancellor, the pro-vice-chancellor and several others in the appointment process. The vice-chancellor released the university registrar, who refused to sign the appointment letters, from his position and appointed an assistant registrar as the acting registrar, who signed the letters on the day. The news of the appointment, which caused tension among job-seekers and the city and university unit Bangladesh Chhatra League, the student wing of the ruling Awami League, set off a clash in front of the vice-chancellor’s house.
All this appears to be ridiculously illogical but unfortunately commonplace now in seats of higher learning where the appointment of teachers, officers and even caretakers is mired in corruption and influenced by political consideration. A large number of appointment and promotion in public universities are, as educationalists say, influenced by political considerations, personal connections and bribery. Top officials — vice-chancellors, pro-vice-chancellors and registrars — and influential teachers of universities having political clout often influence appointment. Influential officials and teachers usually pressure selection committees and syndicates to get the candidates of their choice appointed, often in breach of rules and regulations. Cases of manipulation and violation of rules and regulations regarding qualifications for appointment are also rampant and have made the headlines many times. The root of most such irregularities is believed to have originated from the growing trend of appointing vice-chancellors of public universities on political considerations and from top officials’ attempt to further the partisan control of the ruling party on campuses. What has happened in the University of Rajshahi is emblematic of the intrusion of partisan and parochial political interests that now plague seats of higher learning by creating grounds for corruption.
The investigation committee must, therefore, identify the people responsible for the appointment in violation of the embargo and the government must bring them to justice to set a precedent. The government and the University Grants Commission, which have largely failed to monitor and contain corruption in public universities, have a role to play to ensure an academic ambiance in universities so that the universities can play their role in creating a knowledge-based society. Universities must be allowed to pursue their mandated duty, creating knowledge and facilitating research, without being burdened with parochial politicisation.
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