Student organizations in Bangladesh have changed for the worse
There are some poems that had relevance at the time they were written, such as the one written by Robert Frost.
Scribed in times when vast tracts of land had to be overseen by a few, especially to prevent encroachment by cattle herds, they also served as borders that shouldn’t, wouldn’t, be side-tracked.
They did not, however, disturb the natural flow of water bodies in days when man-made dams weren’t seen as structures to restrict water flows.
Likewise, student bodies were set up to provide platforms to address grievances in the absence of less than adequate governance that could provide the required facilities for pupils.
For countries such as Bangladesh, these bodies played vital support to politicians arguing for the emancipation of the country’s people.
In an independent country, the role of such bodies has to evolve and change for the better of the institution and indeed the country. That they have changed for the worse is the tragedy.
Instead of looking at how to evolve to accommodate the needs of institutions that have grown 10 times the original numbers, and assisting students strapped for cash in growing inflation times, the student bodies have turned into mini-mafias coddled under the safety of political umbrellas.
No wonder extortion and tender shares of development have become the order of the day, not to fund such exercises, but to line the pockets.
The absence of elections to these bodies removed the barriers created sensibly through dialogues to prevent such untoward incidents from taking place.
Instead, the people in charge of discipline surrendered such sovereignty and authority in exchange for quasi power and a false sense of authority.
The resultant stream of incidents of everything that shouldn’t be happening on university and college campuses has created grief beyond despair in the minds of the general masses, not to mention parents, who are losing their offspring.
Frost’s fences were as much of physical barriers as they were those of the sensibilities. The Central Students Unions moved from funding from pockets and membership fees to small extortion from shops and roadside businesses to downright extortion from campus development funds.
Inquiries will hopefully reveal whether the vice-chancellor of Jahangirnagar University voluntarily paid over a crore to the Central Students Units or not.
If the answer is “yes,” all vice chancellors must come under the scrutiny of the law enforcing agencies and the University Grants Commission. If not, student leaders making the allegation have some answering to do.
Whatever the case, in both instances, appointments to university vice-chancellorships have to be more stringent to persons with stiffer backbones and those to student bodies of purer characters with proven pasts.
Now that we know even MPs are coming under the scanner for alleged misdemeanors, it is the time for reform.
Mahmudur Rahman is a writer, columnist, broadcaster, and communications specialist.