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Not a man of honour

  • The ultimate purpose of a university is not to churn out human resources to meet industrial needs, but to bring positive changes in mindset and values to our society, inspire respectable and dignified changes, and not to submit itself to political needs.

Sin Chew Daily

Universiti Malaya and its vice chancellor Datuk Abdul Rahim Hashim should immediately stop their oppressive actions against the students. They should instead respect the students' freedom of expression and hold an open-minded attitude towards their views.

Wong Yan Ke, the graduate who raised a placard to call for the vice chancellor's resignation during the recent convocation ceremony, was only expressing his appeals and frustration towards a campus, social or national issue. It was inappropriate for the university authorities to lodge a police report against him even though they thought he had protested at the wrong place and occasion.

The UM authorities claimed that Wong had damaged the university's reputation. Nevertheless, it is equally important for the university, in particular its vice chancellor, to contemplate whether what the VC had said or done was appropriate in the first place.

During the Malay Dignity Congress jointly organised by UM, vice chancellor Abdul Rahim gave a highly sensitive racist speech to the audience in an attempt to please some politicians and divide the Malaysian society. Such an act has itself badly tarnished the good name of the university.

UM claims to be one of the globally acclaimed institutions of higher learning that upholds the noble principle of speech freedom and boasts exceptional teaching quality. Unfortunately, dissident views from the students have not been tolerated in the least.

The way the university has lodged a police report against a student, barred two students from receiving their scrolls, and instructed other students to stage a counter-protest demonstration within the campus, has indeed substantiated the allegations made by students Wong Yan Ke, Yap Wen Qing and Edan Kon that the VC's actions were indeed inappropriate.

Prior to this, Yap Wen Qing had criticised Abdul Rahim for the racist remarks he made, but education minister Maszlee Malik felt any student should approach the VC personally if he had any request or opinion to voice up.

Student organisations have been set up to reflect the students' views and appeals, but very often the school authorities have opted to ignore views expressed through official channels and not take any concrete action to address a problem.

Maszlee said the UM vice chancellor was an open-minded man, but a string of recent events has only proven otherwise.

If Abdul Rahim wants to prove that he is open-minded and a man of honour, he should first tell the university authorities to withdraw the police report, invite student leaders in the university to a dialogue and listen to what they have to say. But above all, he must tender an open apology to all Malaysians for his indecent speech at the Malay Dignity Congress.

The ultimate purpose of a university is not to churn out human resources to meet industrial needs, but to bring positive changes in mindset and values to our society, inspire respectable and dignified changes, and not to submit itself to political needs.

The Malay Dignity Congress jointly organised by four local public universities has not brought any dignified change to the Malay society, but has torn our society further apart.

The education ministry cannot wash its hands off this whole thing. It has the biggest responsibility to bear.

It is commendable that minister Maszlee has announced to incorporate modules of philosophy and ethics into university curriculum. But before this is done, it is utterly essential for the ministry to instruct public universities in the country to stop oppressing the students and reprimand the university authorities for abusing their power in order to create a truly liberal campus environment.

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