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Bangladesh: Universities in turmoil

Bangladesh University of Engineering and TechnologyQuite a number of universities, including the Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (BUET), have been in turmoil for sometime now. A vicious cycle of temporary truces and fresh bouts of agitation has marked the long-drawn internecine feud between factions of teachers and students in the trouble-prone universities.

At Jahangirnagar University (JU), which has experienced one of the prolonged conflicts in recent times, even the resignation of the vice-chancellor and the appointment of a new vice-chancellor failed to breathe fresh air there. A pictorial story on the confrontational attitude of a teacher towards the JU vice-chancellor carried in a Bangla daily speaks volumes for not only the decline in academic atmosphere but also the vicious influence of politics in higher seats of learning.

Universities are becoming increasingly unmanageable not only because the student wing of whichever political party may be in power is after establishing a monopoly hold on the campus but also because rivalry among contending teachers’ groups tends to incite agitation against the authorities.

True, political appointment has its weakness and those given the charge are often blameable for toeing the line of those in power. But then, if things do not cross the limit, there is no point opposing the authorities for opposition’s sake. Some, it is alleged, have their own ambition to pursue and try to exploit any murky situation to their advantage. Otherwise, it is difficult to explain the unwillingness of one side or the other to accept the findings of any committee that is otherwise duly constituted and finalises its report after a thorough investigation or careful inquiry in an independent manner, for identifying any official aberration or wrong-doing.

Committees and commissions constituted on an agreement between two sides are the only civilised means to resolving disputes at any level. No one has ever suggested that it should be any different in case of higher seats of learning.

It is time all concerned with higher education made it a point that an overdose of politics has been stifling the academic pursuance. The campus should be left alone in the interest of both education and national maturity. Nowhere in the civilised world, political parties fight proxy wars like this on campuses. Had political acumen been the benchmark of student leadership, they would not have to take recourse to bloody violence — intra- or inner-party.

Even the teachers who do not feel ashamed of flexing muscle needed no such exercise. This is a serious matter and it should be treated so. Time is running out for the nation. Such ugly issues have to be resolved through patient analysis and self-criticism. A high-level committee or commission comprising eminent jurists, educationists and members of civil society may be formed for mediation between the warring factions and establishing peace on campuses. (The Financial Express, Bangladesh)

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