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Universities must not be reduced to vassals of race politics

  • Universities must not be reduced to vassals of race politics

Sin Chew Daily

The Malay Dignity Congress on the past Sunday was not only teeming with racist remarks but also made several divisive proposals to the government, plunging our multicultural society into a state of uneasiness.

What was more shocking and disappointing was that the event's organizer was Malay Excellence Studies Department of Universiti Malaya, with four local public universities -- UM, UPM, UPSI and UiTM -- as its co-organizers. The UM vice chancellor even delivered a racist speech that would only tarnish the reputation of the university.

As one of the nation's most established and top-rated institutions of higher learning, UM's vice chancellor is understandably a highly qualified intellectual with a deep conscience, as everything he does or says will manifest the excellent academic ambience of the university.

Similarly, other public universities have also been tasked with the momentous educational mission and obligation in grooming a new generation of progressive Malaysians with superior civic consciousness and academic cultivation by harnessing the country's diverse social cultures and moderation value.

Unfortunately the leaders of the aforementioned universities have not only failed to set a good example for young Malaysians, but have even taken the lead in sabotaging the pluralistic values of our country.

UM Student Union vice president Yap Wen Qing has called on the vice chancellor to resign over the inappropriate remarks he made during the congress. Yap has made good use of his identity as a student representative in demonstrating student autonomy, which has been granted to varsity students since the Pakatan Harapan government came into power.

It is sad that his move has not been backed by other student organizations in his university. In its stead, he was slammed for tarnishing the university's image and for not respecting the university. This shows that our varsity students are still very conservative and pro-establishment.

When asked about Yap's action, education minister Maszlee Malik suggested that he express his frustration to the vice chancellor personally, while defending the latter as an open-minded man willing to listen to the views of students.

Public universities in Malaysia come under the jurisdiction of the education ministry. Any policy or action of the vice chancellor must first get the nod of the ministry before they can be put into practice. It is highly disappointing that Maszlee has taken no action against the vice chancellor and has opted to ignore the student representative's woes.

We wish to remind Maszlee that tertiary education reform is one of the key policies of his ministry, and that he should be consistent in what he says and does.

In his recent article on educational reforms, Maszlee highlighted three core areas of reform in higher learning education: reinvigorating the spirit of the university through empowerment, autonomy and integrity; bringing Malaysia’s higher education system into global prominence; and developing future-proof graduates that carry with them crucial humanistic values.

We hope that the minister can issue a stern statement on the remarks of the UM vice chancellor at the congress as well as the perception that the four public universities have been exploited as a political tool in support of racism. He should instruct the university authorities to rectify their racist position and revert to the nature of education in order to show that the education ministry is indeed serious about reforms in higher learning education.

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