Amid public outcry over Dhaka University's decision to ban outsiders on the campus, Vice Chancellor Prof Md Akhtaruzzaman yesterday said they would set up checkpoints at all the entrances to implement the decision.
“We will soon set up security checkpoints at every entry points. Our security guards will be posted there. They will prevent outsiders from entering the campus,” he told reporters at his office.
His remarks came a day after the university authorities announced that no outsiders would be allowed to roam or stay on the campus or carry out any activities without their permission.
The decision, made at a provost committee meeting on July 5, raised a volley of questions like whether common people can now visit the DU, an institution that has many historic and religious establishments on its campus.
Many, including ex-DU VCs Prof AAMS Arefin Siddique and Prof Emajuddin Ahmed, argued the move goes against the very character of the country's premier university which gave birth to some major democratic movements.
But Akhtaruzzaman yesterday said the university was no place for shopping; it's rather a place for teachers and students.
“All types of programmes would be arranged here as it is the 'birthplace of democracy'. Activities related to education, culture, debate, music will take place here and people will come to take part in such programmes. We always welcome educational and cultural activities.”
But, intrusion of outsiders may disrupt normal life of the students and the university family, which is not expected. And we cannot let this place be destroyed with people pouring into the campus, he said.
“Some people will spoil the environment of education by using loudspeakers inside the campus … we would not tolerate such acts.”
He said on several occasions vehicles of outsiders entered the campus, and it must stop.
“We will try to ensure security of the students. Security checkpoints do not mean it's a cantonment or police post. Our security guards will be posted there.”
Speaking about class boycott by students, he said, “Obstructing students from taking part in academic activities is not a good sign. I have been seeing such activities for the last three months. Some people are barring students. We do not welcome such acts and discourage students from boycotting classes.”
He claimed that “evil infiltrators” have joined the quota reform movement lately.
“The movement was spontaneous and thousands of students took part in it. We have given moral support to them also.”
Prof Emajuddin and Prof Arefin Siddique and different organisations sharply criticised the DU move and demanded its immediate withdrawal.
Prof Emajuddin said the decision was neither right nor acceptable.
“This is the premier institution of the country, so people will come here,” he told The Daily Star yesterday.
“University is an open place and you can't shut its door,” he said adding, “I was a student of the university and then a teacher. We still have our bonding with it. So imposing such a decision is not right.”
Prof Arefin, the immediate past VC, said, “The decision goes against the long heritage of the university…Imposing such a restriction is unthinkable, unimaginable and bizarre.
“I don't know how they will implement it but it was not right at all to make such a decision in the first place.”
Dhaka University is a centre of free thinkers and many students from other institutions and even people from other countries visit the university regularly, he said.
“If everyone has to take permission to enter the campus then it would be a huge task. I don't know if the proctor's office is ready for this,” he said, adding that the university is run with taxpayers' money.
“Is there a plan to turn the university into a cantonment?” he asked.
“These days, even cantonments are kept open. We can walk through the cantonment; there is no problem there. When cantonments are kept open, how rational it would to bring the university under such restrictions? The question is whether they understand the concept of a university,” Prof Arefin said.
He said the recent incidents centring on the quota reform movement may have led to the decision, but such problems can be solved using the existing proctorial rules as both the victims and attackers are DU students.
Terming the decision “very sad”, Bangladesh Workers Party, a ruling Awami League ally, demanded an immediate withdrawal of the ban.
“The university authorities never took such a decision…. It goes against the very concept of university,” the party said in a statement.
DU Unit of Bangladesh Chhatra Union said the decision raised questions about the history, heritage and democratic atmosphere of the university.
“In the name of security, the university administration is erecting a 'wall of protectionism' defying the democratic environment of the university,” the organisation said.
Progotishil Chhatra Jote, an alliance of left-leaning student organisations, in a press statement said students would not allow the university to curb people's freedom through such undemocratic decisions.