No politics in our universities, please

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Erna Mahyuni, The Malay Mail

So Putrajaya recently threw a hissy fit over a survey and needed someone to pay. In this case, Professor Datuk Mohammad Redzuan Othman was allegedly asked to step down as director of UM’s Centre for Democracy and Elections (UMcedel).

Apparently his tenure as dean also was cut short, but Putrajaya might not be to blame for that bit. Mohammad Redzuan’s term as dean was already nearing its end.

As per procedure, there was a call for nominations for his post from his own faculty who then voted. Apparently Mohammad Redzuan was shortlisted and it was left to the vice-chancellor to make the final decision. It is supposed to be an independent process and the government does not (and should not) get a say in who becomes faculty dean. So the good professor is likely to stay on in his faculty, just not as dean.

Unfortunately the media seems not very clear about the manner deans are chosen, mistakenly assuming that deans are hired the way ordinary stiffs are. Most universities stipulate a certain number of years for a dean’s appointment which usually lasts three years though, depending on the university, can be extended for a limited time. Unlike our prime ministers, deans don’t get to hold on to their terms until they croak.

But Mohammad Redzuan losing the UMcedel post looks to be pure political meddling. If a survey shows Putrajaya has things it needs working on, shouldn’t Putrajaya be fixing those things instead of shooting the messenger?

It is very aggravating that our government considers itself above criticism and that any negativity lobbed its way, especially by so-called civil servants, is betrayal.

More than 50 years on, Malaysians and their government are still trapped in a ridiculous feudal mindset. What next, should we be expected to kneel and kiss the hands of our politicians who we unfortunately elected into office?

Our politicians are not royalty and we do not owe them obedience or subservience. We do not need to be grateful to them nor are they deserving of lavish praise and adulation.

They were elected, a fact lost on so many Malaysians seeing the way they slavishly kowtow to our leaders.

An academician’s political leanings should not in any way affect the way he does his job or dictate his career progression. Putrajaya has no business telling a public university how to choose its staff and how to conduct its business.

And yet Putrajaya is even now meddling with private universities, forcing students to take what is basically a brainwashing course disguised as one about history and community relations. The “teachers” of this mandatory course use it as a platform to slam gays and give long morality lectures. Private college students are already paying through their noses to get an education; they shouldn’t have to deal with substandard government mandated “courses.”

Do we want our students to be capable and equipped for the working world or do we want obedient drones who won’t question the status quo? The latter is what Putrajaya wants but not at all what employers want.

So .for the good of our children, let’s kick the politicians out of our universities and let our ivory towers get back to the business of enriching minds.