Protests by Brac University students over an alleged altercation between former law teacher Farhaan Uddin Ahmed and a university official continued for a fourth day on Wednesday despite the vice-chancellor’s announcement of a probe committee.
The agitating students have rejected the five-member probe panel, demanding that their representatives be included in the committee, something the university authorities have been reluctant to do.
The university cancelled all classes for Wednesday and Thursday but maintained that all scheduled exams would take place.
Probe committee pandemonium
The university administration had announced on Monday that a probe committee would be formed with all parties to expedite the inquiry into the matter. The committee was to consist of three professors, an alumnus representative and a student representative. BracU on Tuesday had announced three members, two of whom were replaced with Prof Syed Manzoorul Islam, former head of the Department of English at Dhaka University and Prof Afsan Chowdhury of Brac in a second announcement on Wednesday. They will join Prof AFM Yusuf Haider, former pro-vice-chancellor of Dhaka University and Tajdin Hasan, president of Brac University Alumnus Association. The fifth member, a student representative, remains to be confirmed.
The committee has been tasked with investigating the events of July 30 (Sunday) when Farhaan was allegedly manhandled by the university’s registrar. It will also have to decide if due process was followed in the termination of Farhaan’s contract with Brac University.
The committee will have to submit its findings within five working days starting Thursday, August 3. The university administration has also stated the committee may propose changes in university policy and guidelines to avoid such incidents recurring in the future.
The protesting students, however, rejected the probe committee saying the university authorities had refused to accept their student representative.
The BracU vice-chancellor Prof Syed Saad Andaleeb, when asked about the student representative, said: “We cannot include the protesters in the committee. If they want fairness, they will have to accept neutral parties. Prof Manzoorul and Prof Afsan have been added already. I have asked faculty members to pick a freshman to be the student representative.”
The protesters have been critical of the VC’s stance, saying freshmen students are newcomers to the university who know very little about the details of the protest. They also maintained that freshmen students can be more easily manipulated by the administration because they have to spend the next four years studying at this institution.
The university administration, in turn, has said that the agitating students have resorted to strong-arm tactics including staging sit-ins inside administrative buildings and confining the VC in his office for several hours.
Protests go on but Farhaan leaves
On Wednesday, Farhaan, the former teacher at the heart of the agitation, left the protest and posted a statement on Facebook saying: “I am recusing myself and I am stepping away from the ongoing protests by the students of BRAC University because my involvement is being used by the BRAC University Administration to undermine the students’ legitimate demands and the Administration has discontinued the negotiations. In the interest of greater good I will not be involved in any way with the ongoing protests so that the Administration pays heed to the students’ needs and does justice.
I ardently hope and wish that the Students and the Administration can resolve the matter peacefully and justly.”
After Farhaan’s departure, students continued the protest. In his absence, more issues have been raised by the protesters. They include:
Investigation into the alleged assault on students on Tuesday, including the sexual harassment of female students.
The administration has been accused of being “heartless, apathetic” for imposing harsh restriction on students with severe personal issues.
Mistreatment of students and teachers alike at the hands of the administration.
In the afternoon, when students were forced to leave the campus building, they attempted to close the shutters and padlock them.
Although there were reports of scuffles between university security and students on Tuesday, no violence was reported on Wednesday.
Teachers support the protesters
Some teachers also took part in the protests by expressing solidarity with the students. Many teachers expressed their concern at allegations of a teacher being assaulted.
A teacher told the Dhaka Tribune: “Our students are out there on the street, they are like our children. Their well-being is paramount for us.”
Members of the faculty also said that the administration had been very harsh of late. Some alleged that the university authorities had been deducting their salaries to fund the construction of the permanent campus.
Other teachers questioned why a group of teachers from the CSE department had been fired in the middle of the semester.
The faculty members said the matter had been handled poorly by the university, with many questioning the vice-chancellor’s role in not doing enough to mitigate the problem early on.
The BracU Alumni Association also weighed in, saying that the VC had asked members to a meeting to discuss the protests but the meeting did not take place.
“Even though the Alumni were invited by the VC today to talk, he himself did not show up,” Farmina Hossain, a BracU alumnus told the Dhaka Tribune.
The VC could not immediately be reached for comment on the cancelled Alumni Association meeting.