What is Student Autonomy? Is it edible?


by Leong Yu Sheng, Deputy Secretary of Persatuan Mahasiswa Universiti Malaya

From auto- “self” and nomos- “law”, hence when combined understood to mean “one who gives oneself one’s own law” is a concept found in moral, political, and bioethical philosophy. Autonomy is also used to refer to the self-government of the people.

Student autonomy means an independent self-governing student body. It is a student government of the students, by the students, for the students. It will have the authority to manage all student related affairs. The student government (or known as Student Union) does not only manage the transportation, accommodation and welfare of the students, it also decides the policies and financial allocation for all student activities.

The existence of student union ensures campus democracy, freedom and rights of the students. There shall be no constraints for student activity, campaign and participation as long as it is not against the law and morale of the society. Under the current system, student activities is often denied and suppressed by Hal Ehwal Pelajar (HEP) in various aspects.

In addition, student union will perform better than HEP as the union is formed by student themselves. The main reason is that the Student Union understands the students more in every aspect than the HEP. Thus, it will allocate activity funds much more appropriately with integrity and decide the most suitable policies to be implemented to empower the students.

One of the brain cracking unsolved problem faced by HEP is its failure in getting student participation in its activities. The reasons of HEP’s failure is just simply that they do not know the needs and demands of the students. This issue had been causing wastage in student activity funds. As a result, students are forced to attend and even forced to pay to their activities (like the RM120 College Dinner) by compulsorizing the activity. To add salt to injury, some of the student activity funds are used to achieve Barisan National’s political objectives.

Conflict of interest

As the deputy vice chancellor of Student Affair Division (HEP), it is his duty to take care of the welfare of the students. However, which side will he stand when a conflict arisen between the University’s Administration and the students? The answer is very obvious, the deputy vice chancellor will stand with the university’s administration as he is one of them. Furthermore, it is the university’s administration that determines his promotion, not the students.

On the other hand, it will be a different story if it is the Student Union that has the authority. The President of the Student Union is elected by the students to represent the students. Unlike the HEP with conflict of interest, all the decisions and actions by the Student Union are based on the interest of students.

The path to revive Student Union

The hope to revive Student Union rely on every student in the campus. Students should fully support any initiatives by Persatuan Mahasiswa Universiti Malaya (PMUM) to strengthen its autonomy.  It is the responsibility of every students to defend their own freedom and rights by reviving the Student Union of the students, by the students, for the students.