The appointments of 137 teachers and employees by Rajshahi University's outgoing vice-chancellor are a continuation of an old process – get appointed by the party and work for the party – which is now unfolding in multiple violations of university rules and regulations.
The corruption began with the political appointment of Rajshahi University (RU) vice-chancellor (VC), bypassing the Rajshahi University Ordinance-1973.
According to the ordinance, there will be a panel of three candidates nominated by the university syndicate, and the chancellor will pick one of them for the VC post. But RU did not have any such panel since 2001, and the immediate-past RU VC Prof Abdus Sobhan was appointed just by an executive order in 2009 – which was a violation of the recruitment rules in the first place.
"Vice-chancellors who themselves are appointed politically will customarily pamper political recruitments during their tenures. This is what happened in Prof Sobhan's case," said Prof Bokhtiar Ahmed, a RU anthropology teacher told The Business Standard.
He said progressive teachers protested the anomalies as he noted a university cannot be the rehabilitation centre for any party activists.
Prof Sobhan fought against political recruitment in 2005. During the BNP-Jamaat regime, he led the movement against political recruitment of 544 teachers and staff violating the RU recruitment rules. But he seemed to have forgotten the ideals after becoming the VC in 2009 as his recruitments were marred by political favoritism.
In his first tenure, Prof Sobhan appointed 330 teachers and 595 staff. He ended his first stint in 2013 without facing major allegations though the handpicked appointments raised questions.
No teacher or staff were brave enough to file any complaint against him as he branded himself as an influential man of the ruling party.
But the University Grants Commission (UGC) warned Prof Sobhan of ad-hoc appointments and said UGC would not allow teachers and staff who were appointed after 2011 on an ad hoc basis, said UGC Member Prof Dil Afroza Begum.
She said, "We have all documents about Prof Sobhan's irregularities such as providing false information to the chancellor, lowering recruitment qualifications to appoint families and relatives, and financial irregularities."
RU teacher Prof Bokhtiar Ahmed said It would be tough not to comply with the rules if the senate remained active.
"Even, the RU syndicate is almost inactive for a long time. It is high time RU restored the 1973 ordinance and reformed it," he added.
According to his observations about the last few VCs, RU law department teacher Prof Abu Naser Md Wahid said the unelected VCs usually are compelled to serve the portion that brought him to the post.
"They had no accountability and also lacked transparency."
Probe report against Prof Sobhan soon
Despite an UGC embargo on RU appointments enforced in October last year, Prof Abdus Sobhan cleared the appointments of 137 teachers and staff on an ad-hoc basis Thursday – on the last day in office.
After assuming office for the straight second time in 2017, he already had appointed 52 teachers and 191 staff.
The Thursday appointment agitated two factions of the pro-government student who then locked into clashes over the recruitment. The VC Thursday left the campus with police protection.
The incident came under heavy criticisms as the education ministry subsequently formed a four-member probe committee. The committee has been asked to submit the report by seven working days.
The inquiry team leader and also an UGC member Prof Md Alamgir visited Rajshahi University campus Saturday.
He told TBS that they had talked with all the concerned people including the immediate-past RU VC.
"We will be able to submit the report after Eid. We are trying our best to submit it even before that," he said.
Why did the ministry not take any action?
The UGC members and officials said they have no power to take action against any vice-chancellor. The UGC just can send the recommendations to the education ministry. But in most cases, the ministry does not act accordingly to the findings of the probe reports.
The same happened about Prof Sobhan as the ministry did not take any action against him even after receiving the UGC report last year accusing the former VC of financial and recruitment irregularities.
UGC Secretary Dr Ferdous Zaman said they recommended the education ministry to suspend the VC after probing 25-allegations against him. "We told the ministry that he has no ethical right to stay in the chair," said the UGC secretary.
Wishing anonymity, an education ministry official said, "The ministry gave him the chance to end his tenure quietly. But his last day's incident was questionable and offensive."
"The ministry did the same as it does with other VCs," he said.
On the Thursday recruitments, Prof Sobhan claimed he appointed 137 Bangladesh Chhatra League activists and Awami League supporters on humanitarian grounds.
"The appointments are not against the law as the VC is authorised by the ordinance to do so. I gave them jobs on humanitarian grounds. Those who were recruited are mostly from Chhatra League and Awami families," he told the media after appearing before the education ministry probe body Saturday.
The RU authorities, however, suspended the joining 137 newly appointed teachers and staff.