Professor of international relations at Dhaka University, Mohammad Tanzimuddin Khan, speaks to Prothom Alo about violence on campus, 34 students being admitted to the university without any admission exam, delay in appointing the vice chancellor and other issues.
Prothom Alo: You were assaulted at the Shaheed Minar last year. Has the matter been addressed?
Tanzimuddin Khan: When I was a student in 1992, I was assaulted by Chhatra Dal and last year as a teacher I was abused and attacked by Chhatra League at the Shaheed Minar. Around a month ago, a teacher of the ruling party camp threatened me. But none of these issues have been addressed. The university authorities back the activists and hoodlums of the ruling party. That is why there is not recompense for such instances of injustice.
Prothom Alo: Student protesters were attacked for their demonstration against 34 persons being admitted without admission tests. The proctor blamed this on the things ‘crossing limits’. Who crossed limits and can we expect an inquiry into the matter?
Tanzimuddin Khan: There are no inquiries. Even if there are inquiries, these are not conducted by any neutral non-partisan persons. And if there is a fair inquiry and elements of the pro-government student organisation are found guilty, then the inquiry report never sees the light of day. In that context if the protest against injustice is crossing the limit, then ‘crossing the limit’ needs to be redefined.
Prothom Alo: But the gunfights between Chhatra Dal and Chhatra League have abated.
Tanzimuddin Khan: This silence is not peaceful. One particular student organisation controls the administration in the university and no other organisation has any tangible presence. However, this one-sided power has led to an increase in inner fighting. Violence still prevails. In fact, it has deteriorated. Anyone can become a victim of campus violence, even those not involved in the politics.
Prothom Alo: There has been controversy in Jahangirnagar University about the sharing of money from development projects. Are there similar instances in Dhaka University?
Tanzimuddin Khan: Dispute between the vice chancellor and Chhatra League over sharing extortion money led to the mud-slinging and brought the issue to the limelight. Such extortion is silently carried out at the Dhaka University. The contractors and the hall proctors have the true picture. The government organisation always demands toll money, Eid bonus and other funds from the university administration and the contractors. If you visit the halls of Dhaka University, you will find rows of costly motorbikes and even expensive cars. How can students of these halls own such expensive vehicles? It is no secret that during the construction of Bijoy Ekattur Hall, the contractors gave the government organisation 200 motorcycles. This has now become new norm.
Prothom Alo: In the four decades following independence, 2000 teachers were appointed, and yet in just the last decade, 900 teachers were appointed to the university. Does this have any link to the deteriorating condition of the university?
Tanzimuddin Khan: Definitely. So many teachers being appointed in such a short span of time is certainly questionable. This is simply to ensure votes. However, given the factional rifts, the vice chancellor does not even trust his own party now.
Prothom Alo: Even if there was an admission test, would this validate the admission of those 34 students? Will the grants commission’s recommendation for teachers to be appointed through written exams make any difference?
Tanzimuddin Khan: There really is no way out. There should be a full-fledged inquiry into everything, not just the admission of 34 students. The university is an ethical institution. Such admission has tarnished the reputation of the university. And with all indicators at low ebb, will a written test to appoint teachers make any difference? If unethical practices continue, written exams will make no difference.
However, the student admission exams at Dhaka University can hardly be manipulated. During the BNP rule there were instances of admission scams. In 2007, as one of the investigators, I expelled over a hundred students from our department alone. Even so, I must say the Dhaka University admission exams are exemplary.
Prothom Alo: The appointment of vice chancellor has been held up and there is talk of appointment being made from outside the panel. Do you think that an administrator may even be appointed?
Tanzimuddin Khan: This has never happened in the history of the university, but to avoid the factional conflict, appointment can be made from even outside Dhaka University. I will not dismiss such a possibility.
Prothom Alo: What would you say about Dhaka University not being in the world’s top thousand universities?
Tanzimuddin Khan: Dhaka University may be a hundred years old, but broadly speaking, it lacks the indicators of an institution of higher education. There needs to be strategic planning too, to be included in the top ranking. There are five criteria - teaching, research, citation, internationalisation and income, though the last two are irrelevant in the Bangladesh context.
When the VC was appointed, did anyone ask him where he wanted to take the university in the next four years? That means the matter of ranking wasn’t even a matter of concern for the government. The VC must have merit and qualification to resolve the problems which permeate the university.
Prothom Alo: For the first time ever, the president and general secretary of Chhatra League have been removed from office. How has this impacted Dhaka University?
Tanzimuddin Khan: It’s just a change in faces, unscrupulous politics remain intact. The newly appointed leaders have also been voicing violent slogans, indicating their clout and muscle.
Prothom Alo: What is the most disturbing issue at Dhaka University right now for which you want an immediate solution?
Tanzimuddin Khan: Partisan politics. Though politics is apparently party-based, it has become centred on individual interests. Those who claim to be committed to the ideology and policies of a certain party, actually do not follow those ideals and policies. They simply join party politics in their own personal interests. This creates a crisis for the university.
Prothom Alo: Thank you.
Tanzimuddin Khan: Thank you.