Thursday, December 08, 2011

Academics: Our Peers are too scared to speak

by Wong Teck Chi

Not one of Malaysia's higher learning institutions is worthy to be called a university, according to an outspoken academician. Not one of Malaysia's higher learning institutions is worthy to be called a university, according to Abu Hassan Hasbullah (left).

Lamenting the universities’ lack of academic freedom and their silence on public interest issues, the associate professor from Universiti Malaya said that our academicians are not daring enough to speak and think for the people.

“(Greek philospher) Aristotle has specifically defined the university as a place to openly discuss all issues in this universe. It is very clear,” he said in a forum entitled ‘Academic Freedom and University Autonomy’ held at Universiti Malaya last night.

Abu Hassan said Malaysian universities, however, have restricted their academicians from commenting on public interest issues.

“I still remember when the haze hit Malaysia in 1995, our academicians received a circular which banned us from talking about the issue. If there was someone who had died because of the haze, who should bare the responsbility?

“I also heard from my wife, who is a medical specialist in a hospital, that doctors are not allowed to reveal how many persons have died because of dengue. This is a disaster.”

He stressed that as academicians, they must be vocal or else, they are merely “teachers who come to class to teach” and the university will also become a “useless school”. “To me, we still don't have a university. Although we have a lot of higher learning institutions, but none of them are university status.”

Fellow academician Rosli Mahat (right), who is the secretary general of the Malaysian Academic Movement, concurred with Abu Hassan's views.

“Our standard is only third class and there are no world class universities here. This has nothing to do with the university rankings,” the senior lecturer said.

Rosli said a world class university must fulfill the criteria in Unesco's recommendations for higher education teaching personnel.

This include university autonomy, full accountability and academician obligations.

“I think it is hard for us even to achieve three articles of the Unesco’s recommendation. Due to the harassment, we only can become third class universities.”

'UUCA must go'

The forum yesterday also featured International Islamic University law professor Abdul Aziz Bari, who had been investigated by university officials and police over his comments on the Selangor Sultan.

Commenting on the recent government decision to amend the Universities and University Colleges Act (UUCA), he stressed that the controversial Act must go.

He said universities can operate without the UUCA and the purpose of the Act is only to suppress the students. “Just do away with the Act.” He also said the government's move to amend and not repeal the Act is a gimmick to deceive the people.

“Don't believe in the government’s gimmick to amend UUCA. The Act is a ghost, it is a sickness, only stupid people will accept such a thing.”

No comments: