The Jahangirnagar University (JU) campus is heating up again as two factions of pro-Awami League teachers remain at loggerheads over the recent reappointment of Prof Farzana Islam as vice-chancellor for a second consecutive term.
Farzana and her rival, the former VC Shariff Enamul Kabir, have reportedly been trying to garner support from various student bodies.
The situation has deteriorated to the point where teachers of the warring factions became embroiled in a scuffle, since when both groups have been holding programs and counter-programs.
“The teachers have been divided into various factions over their struggles for power,” Imran Nadeem, president of the JU chapter of Bangladesh Chhatra Union, said. “The responsibility to ensure peace and stability at the university lies with them.”
Although the incumbent VC is backed by the JU unit of Bangladesh Chhatra League - the ruling Awami League’s student front - other politico-cultural organizations active on the campus have been maintaining their impartiality and are critical of the disputes between the two factions.
“As examinations are going on in various departments, we don’t want to see the campus unstable,” Ashiqur Rahman, president of Jahangirnagar Sangskritik Jote, said.
According to JU sources, after Farzana was appointed VC of the university for her second term on February 15, teachers allied with the ruling party split into two factions, one led by Fazana and the other by Shariff.
The long-running feud has worsened after Farzana appointed new provosts and brought changes to the administrative affairs of nine dormitories.
Under such circumstances, the conflicting factions are trying their utmost to mobilize students’ support and maintaining contact with them by holding views-exchange meetings.
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Some teachers trying to calm their colleagues down during a scuffle on the campus on Tuesday Shoyaib Rahman Sajeeb/Dhaka Tribune
However, the students harbour grievances against the teachers over the long-pending Jahangirnagar University Central Students' Union (Jucsu) polls, and other issues.
These include session jams, a lack of adequate seats in the dormitories, professional misconduct of teachers, and the alleged harassment of students by “implicating them in false cases.”
On Thursday evening, Farzana and teachers loyal to her held a views-exchange meeting with some 40 to 50 leaders of Chhatra League at Senate Hall on the campus.
At the meeting, Farzana, her colleagues and Chhatra League leaders discussed the prevailing situations and expressed their opinions, according to sources who were present.
“It’s a matter of sorrow that teachers believing in the ideals of Bangabandhu got split into two different factions,” Md Jewel Rana, president of the JU unit of Chhatra League, said at the meeting.
“We [Chhatra League] will always stand by you [Farzana]. Our respected prime minister had chosen you as VC of this university. So, you may rest assured we will be working to ensure stability on the campus, even though we suffer any possible damage.”
The VC, too, expressed her hopes, saying she would see Chhatra League activists stand for her during her hard times.
In a bid to woo the pro-government student body in her favour, Farzana lamented her limitations as “she failed to render adequate assistance to Chhatra League”.
“I regret why I cannot stand by Chhatra League during their difficult periods,” she told the meeting.
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Vice-chancellor Farzana Islam and teachers loyal to her at a views-exchange meeting with leaders of Bangladesh Chhatra League at Senate Hall at Jahangirnagar University on Wednesday Shoyaib Rahman Sajeeb/Dhaka Tribune
“Am I really indifferent to them, for which I fail to see their noble tasks? From now on, it’s essential to understand them and their tasks. When the country calls Chhatra League, they respond. I believe they will pay heed to my calls as well.”
The VC held another meeting with left-leaning student bodies and journalist at 7:45pm at the same venue, where the participants asked her whether she had taken any action against a male teacher who was accused of sexually harassing one of his female colleagues.
Leaders of Bangladesh Chhatra Union, Bangladesh Chhatra Front, Jahangirnagar Sangskritik Jote and Zahir Raihan Chalachitra Sangsad were present at the meeting.
Replying to their questions, Farzana claimed the victim herself had withdrawn her complaint against the accused teacher “out of her sympathy” as both of them, according to the VC, had been maintaining good professional ties with each other.
They came down hard on Fazana for not taking measures to address the shortage of seats in the dorms or hold the Jucsu polls on time.
Meanwhile, holding a press conference on Wednesday, teachers allied with Shariff announced that they would organize discussion events with students and their organizations in an attempt to clarify their stance and reasons for the counter-movements.
“The programs we have announced will not hamper academic activities,” Farid Ahmed, a professor of philosophy and the spokesman of the Shariff faction, said.
Their programs include campaigns and views-exchange meetings with students.
“We will not go on tougher movements if the university authorities do not obstruct us from holding our programs.”