The ongoing crisis at the Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (Buet) might turn into a movement against Vice-Chancellor Professor Saiful Islam, because he has already lost the trust of a significant portion of students and teachers.
The administration might plunge Buet into a severe session jam causing irreparable loss to the academic lives of around 9,000 students who are already lagging behind by three to six months mainly due to unscheduled closures, said several students.
The teachers are also planning to launch a tougher movement by shutting down all academic and administrative activities on campus and demanding the resignation of the incumbent vice-chancellor.
Buet teachers blame Vice-Chancellor Professor Saiful Islam for the Abrar murder and for many other irregularities at the university.
The vice-chancellor has been sheltering the ruling party's student wing Chhatra League on campus, and he is actively involved in the party's politics," said Professor Maksud Helali of Mechanical Engineering Department.
"Many allegations were submitted to the vice-chancellor, but he ignored them and sometimes even sheltered the culprits involved. He has tarnished Buet's image," he said.
A teacher seeking anonymity said, "The vice-chancellor should resign with respect. He might face a comparatively worse situation in the future. A good number of teachers are preparing to launch a tougher movement."
At least 300 of the 430 teachers at Buet held a meeting on October 10, and then called upon the vice chancellor to resign because of his negligence in running the university properly.
The teachers also outlined seven demands.
The president of the Buet Teachers' Association, Professor AKM Masud, told The Business Standard, "The university has an excellent reputation both home and abroad. We cannot allow the institution's image to be tarnished because of a vice-chancellor's negligence of duty.
"The teachers want the vice-chancellor to resign. Otherwise they will organise another meeting to decide a further course of action."
The Buet Ordinance 1962 says that a victim of a crime at any residential hall will submit his/her allegation to the provost first. The provost will then investigate the matter. Upon finding evidence of misconduct, the provost has the jurisdiction to expel the student from the hall for up to one year as punishment.
But if it is a serious crime, the provost will then inform the director of Students' Welfare. The director will then assess the matter and forward it to the vice-chancellor for further action.
However, incumbent Vice Chancellor Professor Saiful Islam has no record of taking any action over serious crimes in Buet. He has been unwilling to take action for unknown reasons, several teachers told The Business Standard.
Director of Students' Welfare Professor Mizanur Rahman said, "I submitted three serious matters to the vice-chancellor in the past three months for review. Unfortunately, he did not take action on any of the issues."
Sources at Buet said the vice-chancellor has been mostly unavailable on campus because he does not live in the official residence provided by the university. He shows up at the university around noon every day.
"He is actually unfit for the vice-chancellor position because his performance is not up to the mark. He just tarnishes the image of Buet," a senior professor said on condition of anonymity.
Former vice-chancellor of Buet Professor Abdul Matin Patwari (tenure 1983-87) said, "A vice-chancellor must possess leadership and administrative qualities. I never expected to see such an unpleasant incident on the Buet campus.
"Obviously, the incumbent vice-chancellor cannot avoid responsibility for the recent events. Buet had a good reputation and every previous vice-chancellor made a serious effort to uphold it, but the incumbent administration has failed to do so."
Adding that the Buet administration does not work properly, Professor Patwari said, "Interestingly, the incumbent vice chancellor does not live on campus. That is quite unexpected considering Buet's history."
State of the demands
Most of the teachers' demands are yet to be fulfilled. Buet partially fulfilled their demands by suspending the students who were involved in the brutal murder of Abrar Fahad, banning all political activities on campus and also banning torture of students under the guise of ragging.
However, Buet is yet to fulfill other demands such as the resignation of the vice-chancellor, overhauling the administration, and ensuring the appointment of competent, honest and impartial staff to uphold the quality of education.
Buet has also not fulfilled demands such as providing justice for everyone who was victimised by student politics without delay, and resolving cases against Abrar's killers in the shortest possible time under a speedy tribunal.
Buet teachers are adamant about the administration fulfilling all their demands. Otherwise they will start a tougher movement, including boycotting classes and other activities.
Meanwhile, the protesting students have said that they will not attend classes and examinations until their demands are met.
Tithi, the spokesperson for the Buet movement said, "We [the students] have been boycotting classes over two major demands. The first is the expulsion of students who killed Abrar and the second is to ensure capital punishment of the killers.
"It is obvious that we will start an anti-VC movement if he does not meet our demands."
Buet students placed their 10 demands on October 10, but most of them have not been met by the university.
The unfulfilled demands are - capital punishment for Abrar's killers, identification and expulsion of the killers from the university by 5pm on October 11, resolving the trial in a speedy tribunal, publishing a copy of the charge-sheet in the Abrar murder case.
The students also demanded the expulsion of those involved in torturing students under the guise of ragging and suppressing dissent, expulsion of students involved in certain incidents at Ahsanullah Hall and Suhrawardy Hall within October 11, disclosure of all previous incidents of violence, and the establishment of a common platform to regularly review complaints and take immediate measures.
None of these demands have been met as yet.
However, in a show of goodwill, Buet banned all politics at the university, the vice-chancellor submitted an explanation about his absence from Abrar's Namaz-e-Janaza held on campus, Sher-e-Bangla Hall provost was withdrawn for his silence over the incidents of students being driven out of the hall through political influence and his failure to provide security to students.
Buet has still not compensated murdered student Abrar's family.
Despite repeated attempts, The Business Standard could not reach Buet Vice-Chancellor Professor Saiful Islam for comment on the issue.