All for money?
Outgoing Rajshahi University Vice Chancellor Prof M Abdus Sobhan violated a ministerial embargo by appointing 137 teachers and staffers on his last day in office yesterday, giving rise to daylong chaos and clashes on the campus.
After news of the recruitments leaked around noon, a clash ensued between leaders and activists of RU Bangladesh Chhatra League (BCL) who went to the campus to receive appointment letters and a city unit BCL group, which opposed the recruitments.
Shortly afterwards, the education ministry termed the recruitments "illegal" and formed a four-member committee headed by University Grants Commission member Prof Muhammad Alamgir to investigate the VC's action.
In December 2020, acting on a report of the UGC on corruption at the university, the education ministry had issued an embargo on all kinds of recruitment at RU.
"It appears [from the chaos] that the VC signed the appointment letters under pressure of the ruling party's student leaders, but it was only money that worked behind the last-minute corruption," said Prof Sultan-ul Islam, the convener of Teachers' Society against Corruption, which has been protesting irregularities at the public university.
"As we were protesting the VC's corruptions, many job seekers were pleading with us to stop and save them. Many told us that they paid [for the appointments] with money they gathered by selling off their lands and properties," he said.
Earlier, the RU authorities under Prof Sobhan had called meetings of the finance committee on May 2 and the university syndicate on May 4 to fulfil the requirements for approving recruitments.
But teachers and students foiled the attempt by staging protests and requesting the committee members not to attend the meetings.
The VC then requested RU Registrar Prof Abdus Salam to sign the appointment letters, but the registrar denied the requests on Wednesday.
"I turned my phone off because he [VC Sobhan] was calling me repeatedly and asking me to sign the recruitment documents," Prof Abdus Salam told The Daily Star yesterday.
Failing to convince the registrar, Prof Sobhan called Deputy Registrar Md Yousuf Ali and took his signature on the appointment letters the same day.
"Finding proof of bribery is difficult, but don't the activities and compulsion for the recruitment tell the story?" asked Prof Md Elias Hossain, a member of the Teachers' Society against Corruption.
During yesterday's clash, these correspondents saw that city BCL leaders assaulted Mamun-ar-Rashid, an assistant registrar, wrongly thinking that he was the signatory of the appointment letters.
When another RU official Abdullah Al Masud went forward to save Mamun, the BCL men tore his shirt and pushed him into a gutter.
Police brought the situation under control through baton charge.
Some 15 members of both BCL groups sustained minor injuries in the incident, they claimed.
Rajshahi city BCL President Nur Mohammad Siam said he did go to the campus to resist the illegal recruitments, but the city unit BCL members did not assault anyone.
RU BCL Vice-president Mahfuz Al Amin said Rajshahi city BCL leaders came to the campus to create unrest.
At 2:30pm, VC Prof Abdus Sobhan came out of his residence along with his family members, heavily cordoned by the police, and left the campus.
The VC stopped near the main gate and told journalists, "I performed my duty successfully."
He also said, "The chair was challenging, but I dealt with the challenges."
These correspondents tried to contact the VC for further comments, but he did not answer phone calls.
The Daily Star obtained lists of names of appointed persons in different posts. Among them, nine were appointed as teachers, 24 office assistants, 19 section officers and 85 third- and fourth-class employees.
Md Mamun-ar-Rashid, assistant registrar, confirmed the contents of the list.
RU sources said yesterday more than 50 former and current leaders of RU BCL were recruited while some 10 journalists, both from the campus and city, were given appointments.
FOUR YEARS OF IRREGULARITIES
During his four-year tenure, there were a flurry of allegations of irregularities and corruption against VC Prof Sobhan.
In January 2020, some teachers and job-seekers submitted 17 allegations to the Prime Minister's Office.
Investigating the allegations, the UGC uncovered more allegations and eventually found basis in a total 25 allegations of corruption, irregularities and nepotism against Prof Sobhan and other heads of his administration.
Some of the allegations include providing false information to the university's chancellor on Prof Sobhan's voluntary retirement, lowering qualifications for appointing relatives, including his daughter and son-in-law as teachers, and several financial anomalies.
The UGC in its October 2020 report ordered cancellation of 34 illegal recruitments and in December, the education ministry issued the embargo on recruitments based on this report.
In January this year, RU BCL leaders and activists demanding jobs confined the VC and other officials at the VC's residence and padlocked the administrative buildings.
The VC assured them of "highest priority" in getting jobs, according to a leaked phone conversation reported in newspapers.
On April 2, BCL men again locked the VC residence demanding the same.
RU teachers said the last-minute recruitment would never be legalised, but it would create "additional pressure" on the upcoming RU administration.
They said they never before saw such an instance of "open corruption and arbitrary recruitment".
Prof Sultan-ul Islam, the chairman of geology and mining department, said the VC defied the government order and the government should take steps now.
None of the police officials present during yesterday's clash was willing to talk on the matter.
The university's top officials also remained tight-lipped.