As a BUETian and former faculty member of BUET I am shell-shocked at the brutal murder of Abrar, a second year EEE undergraduate and resident student of Sher-e-Bangla Hall on the night of 6 October in room 2011 by fellow students with political clout. As the story and events related to this inhuman end of promising young student have been unfolding, the nation is numbed by learning about the horrors on that night perpetrated by the demons and the senseless indifference and moral bankruptcy of the BUET administration in administering the rule of law and enforcing discipline on campus. Abrar’s senseless murder has demonstrated that BUET as an institution has lost its high moral ground.
BUET, since its establishment as a university in 1962, has never been a toothless tiger. It is well empowered to deal with discipline and the rule of law in the campus if it abides by its ordinance, statutes and by-laws.
The powers and authorities of the vice-chancellor, the individual teachers, hall administrators, directors, department heads, deans, academic council members, syndicate members and committee members are all laid back. It is an individual’s choice to act or not to act to exert his authority and enforce discipline independently without consultation at any level. You need to act fast and promptly in order to avoid interference and further complications. You take action, do it in writing and report it to the relevant level in writing. The administration may not be often pleased but it will swallow the bitter pill without indigestion. The concerned student or students may not apply for its review for the fear of being exposed to the entire BUET community.
If you abrogate the rights, privileges and authority entrusted with you, you will do great harm to the institution and the country. This is what has led to today’s grave crisis and loss of a young life at BUET.
There has been a long tradition and administrative culture that BUET functions through statutory bodies and committees through constructive participation of all constituent members. It is a collective leadership of teachers led by the vice-chancellor. Whenever any vice-chancellor (VC) has attempted to break or by-pass the tradition and norms, he has disgraced the office of the VC. Those VCs and pro-VCs failed to make the university function and they had to step down while the employees celebrated their exits. The incumbent VC has made the university dysfunctional and ineffective by breaking its long tradition and norms of collective leadership and responsibility.
BUET developed a ‘crisis management culture’ over the years by activating different offices and assembling deans, heads, directors, hall administration and senior faculties to assure the VC he is not alone. In Abrar’s case the system was not activated as the VC remained absent from the campus for many hours, not even joining the final rites for Abrar at the BUET central mosque the following evening. He must be held accountable for his insensitivity and utter disregard for human values. Dr. Saiful, you have miserably failed and what you have done is not Dr. Rashid’s vision of values, dignity and rule of law in BUET’s tradition and spirit as a place of learning for which every BUETian is proud.
Our students at BUET are our prized possessions. The teachers are very fortunate to work and learn these intelligent, bright and smart students. But do we truly cultivate and exploit their potential to create knowledge and make advances in engineering and science? What has inhibited our teachers to think, to diversify their research areas or to write textbooks or publish their class lectures in the form of monographs? How much time do you devote to guide and counsel the students?
The teachers are the guardians of the students when on campus. The VC is a father figure and it is his solemn responsibility to stand by them and look after their wellbeing. I have found three VC’s including Dr. Saiful who failed in this solemn duty.
How many BUET teachers attended the funeral prayers of Abrar? Have the teachers of BUET ceased to be normal human beings? Ask yourself, what is wrong with you? Are you being intimidated from any quarter?
The teachers of BUET badly need moral rearmament to make them normal human beings.
It is alleged that the teachers have become money-making machines in the past two decades by engaging in excessive consultancy and part-time teaching in the private universities and other places disregarding their commitment to BUET. Time has come to look into how much time one is devoting to BUET academic programmes and counselling, and how much time is spent for consultancy and part-time teaching. Mind that you are compensated for your services to BUET including your rest and recreation. Just paying your personal income tax on extra income cannot justify your excessive consultancy and other similar commitments.
Look into the culture and bindings on the faculties in the context of consultancy in the USA or Canada. Can a BUET teacher vouch for himself that he has not compromised his commitment to BUET? How would you feel to learn that your esteemed colleague is one of the 19 authors of a publication to be considered to evaluate his/her achievement? This is intellectual dishonesty when you cannot specify your contribution clearly. When will he or she will be good enough to publish in his or her own name? We expect from you exemplary character, courage, integrity and moral standing. The rest can rot but not thee. We wish you to think, write and publish in your name alone to prove that you are intellectually alive and productive. Do it at least once please!
BUET has never been a worthy constituency for the government under any regime. Even Bangabandhu did not amend its ordinance of 1962 in order to preserve the unique character and values of this place to study engineering and architecture. He had desired this institution to be free from political rivalry and interference at all levels. There is now no reason to justify becoming a hedgehog of any political party in power as student, teacher or administrator.
BUET has produced many engineers who are recognised as competent and outstanding in their respective disciplines all over the world and in Bangladesh. At the same time for decades and now, a number of BUET graduates were and are shamelessly corrupt, unprofessional and unworthy. The BUET background has not made such black sheep to be called a BUETian. The Institution of Engineers, Bangladesh (IEB) must act to deal with its members identified with corruption and unethical practices as per its guidelines.
It is true for everyone including the young students, teachers and administrators with political clout that when you walk through the corridor of power and have access to the seat of power, your blood boils, your brain swells and your fist twitches. You smash everything on your path. You become an incredible hulk and this power syndrome leads to hallucinations and destruction. Moreover, when you are guaranteed impunity and Presidential pardon for all excesses committed, only Almighty can foresee what you will be doing. The public administration of the country is a glaring example. This is what has happened with such students, teachers and administrators. They have been transformed into monsters by shedding humane qualities. Let all individuals young and matured avoid such deadly traps and intoxication that make you daredevil brats.
Let there be soul searching by all the BUETians to find where we have landed today. Let BUET rise from the ashes of shame and guilt with a pledge to rebuild it by restoring its core values, tradition, culture and moral high ground. After 6 October, it is overdue now to change the guard at the helm of BUET along with his appointed advisors and deputies. The sooner the better.
For some the sun sets but for many the sun never sets. BUET is the blazing sun for the BUETians, it shall never set.
* Dr AKMA Quader is retired professor of chemical engineering, BUET and an alumnus of Sher-e-Bangla Hall from the first batch of its resident students.