Friday, January 23, 2015

UM students will lose out with exit of talents, says ex-student leader


Former student leader Fahmi Zainol says there should not be political interference in the running of Universiti Malaya. – The Malaysian Insider file pic, January 23, 2015.

Former student leader Fahmi Zainol says there should not be political interference in the running of Universiti Malaya. – The Malaysian Insider file pic, January 23, 2015. 
Future generation of students will be the biggest losers if there is political interference in the running of the country's oldest university, Universiti Malaya, said its former student leader.
Fahmi Zainol, the former president of the UM's student council, said political interference would not only arouse hatred among the students but also affect their morale and motivation to study.
He said this today in response to the impending replacement of deputy vice-chancellor (academic and international) Professor Dr Mohd Hamdi Abd Shukor, who reportedly will not be getting an extension on his contract.
Another deputy vice-chancellor Professor Datuk Dr Rohana Yusof, who is in charge of student affairs, is also set to be replaced for "being too lenient with students".
Putrajaya was said to have refused to renew Hamdi's contract because he allegedly did not support Umno.
His three-year contract as vice-chancellor ended on December 31 last year and he is now an ordinary lecturer at UM's Faculty of Engineering.
"The values and pride of Universiti Malaya is being trampled upon because of human desires which are never satisfied," Fahmi said today.
"What else is left in Malaysian universities, or specifically Universiti Malaya? If politics mixes with the academic world, everything will be chaotic."
Fahmi said future generations of students would be the biggest losers as the quality of knowledge being passed down was insufficient.
"The quality of lecturers is lessening with talented individuals being expelled from the academic world, just because they have different views about the country's leaders."
Fahmi questioned what Putrajaya would do next and would they appoint retired professors and bring them back to the academic world?
"Of course they would reappoint individuals who love or excel at flattery. It is sad to read about news like this," he said.
"The motivation to return to Universiti Malaya to study is gone, and added into the mix is hatred at the political interference in the academic world."
Fahmi said he hoped that an opportunity would arise for him to continue his studies elsewhere instead of returning to a place which was now tainted.
Fahmi was among eight students, dubbed the UM8, who were punished for organising a talk by opposition leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim.
He and another student leader, Safwan Shamsuddin, received the harshest penalties of a fine and immediate suspension and were unable to sit for their final examinations as a result. The rest were fined RM150 each while one was let off with a warning.
Hamdi told The Malaysian Insider that the Education Ministry did not approve the extension of his contract after his name was submitted by UM.
Three weeks after he vacated the office, UM has yet to appoint a new deputy vice-chancellor in charge of academic affairs.
Meanwhile, Rohana is said to be replaced over recent incidents involving student and academic freedom.
"UM will get a deputy vice-chancellor in charge of student affairs who is stricter," said a source, noting that under Rohana’s watch, students had forced their way past the campus gates on October 27 last year to carry out a banned talk featuring opposition leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim.
Under Rohana, students had also gathered on campus in November last year to protest the disciplinary action taken against the UM8 who had organised the talk.
UM, founded in 1949, has long been a nurturing ground for student leaders, some of whom today are ministers, politicians and leaders in society. But appointments of university heads, or vice-chancellors, are made by the federal government.
The source noted that Hamdi had a stellar track record and is ranked among the university's youngest and brightest after being promoted to a full professor in 2010 at the age of 39, while serving as the head of UM's Department of Engineering.
Hamdi, who hails from Muar, Johor, is a fellow with the Institution of Mechanical Engineers (United Kingdom) and a chartered engineer registered with the UK Engineering Council.
"Even though he has an excellent track record, including in administrative matters, and is among the best,
his tenure will not be extended," said the source, adding that it was a huge loss for UM.
"Professor Hamdi's potential is enormous."
The source blamed the current vice-chancellor for being too weak and subservient to Umno.
"There is no room for differences of opinion as being a supporter of Umno is now the main criteria," said the source.
UM may also lose Professor Datuk Dr Redhuan Othman if it chooses not to re-hire him once he retires next year.
His looming retirement was given as the reason his tenure as Dean for the Faculty of Arts and Science was not extended after his term ended in June last year.
Last year, Redhuan was removed as director of Universiti Malaya's Centre for Democracy and Elections (UMcedel) after his research left the ruling parties unhappy.
"It is unfortunate if this happens because Redhuan has proven he is an excellent professor, including producing the most number of PhD graduates in the last convocation.
"Given UM's trend of hiring retired professors, as well as the fact that his services are needed, this issue may not arise.
"Besides, all the deans and many professors who were recently retired have continued working for the university," said the source.
UM had recently reappointed the director of the Research Centre for Malay Excellence, Professor Datuk Dr Yaacob Harun, following his retirement.
The director of UM's Centre for Continuing Education (UMCCed) Profesor Datuk Dr Mansor Mat Isa was also reappointed despite having retired.
UM has been plagued with problems since the Education Ministry announced the appointment of Professor Datuk Dr Mohd Amin Jalaludin as the new vice-chancellor of UM.
He was seen as having failed to stand up for his staff when associate professor Dr Azmi Sharom was charged with sedition last year over his comments on the Perak constitutional crisis. – January 23, 2015.
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