Ex-RU VC’s Tenure: Recruitment rules violated freely | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, May 08, 2021 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:08 AM, May 08, 2021

Ex-RU VC’s Tenure: Recruitment rules violated freely

Financial activities got more importance than improving quality of education

Thursday's chaos on Rajshahi University campus can be attributable to the lack of effective steps after a government report mentioned that bribery, questionable recruitment and financial irregularities were rampant in the administration when Prof Abdus Sobhan was the vice chancellor.

The University Grants Commission (UGC) sent the report containing the observations to the Ministry of Education, the Anti-Corruption Commission and the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) in October last year, but the only notable step taken was an embargo on new recruitment.

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However, on Thursday, his last work day, Prof Sobhan recruited at least 137 teachers and employees that created disappointment in two pro-government student groups who then clashed over the recruitment.

The education ministry termed Thursday's recruitments illegal.

According to records, 52 teachers and 191 other employees were recruited in the four-year tenure of Prof Sobhan.

Several senior teachers of the university said the situation was created due to gross violation of the Rajshahi University Act 1973, which makes it mandatory to appoint the VC from a panel of three individuals nominated by the Senate.

"Instead of following the rules, VCs are being appointed through executive orders," Prof Abu Naser Md Wahid told The Daily Star.

"Such orders are the result of serious lobbies by individuals affiliated to political leaders. Once appointed, the VCs remain loyal to the leaders who lobbied for them. This is how the corruption starts," Prof Wahid said.

Prof Bokhtiar Ahmed of the university's Department of Anthropology said, "This has been the most frustrating situation in my two decades of teaching. I can see the death of a public university."

He said the senate had been ineffective since 2016 and there has been no students' representative in the Senate.

"When a vice-chancellor is appointed solely on political consideration, it is difficult for him or her to work without corruption."

Prof Selim Reza Newton said it was astounding that Prof Sobhan was not removed even after the UGC reported his corruption.

"The government that could not rely on him to recruit people trusted him to run the university," he said.

Law teachers explained that the RU Act also stresses on education and research, not financial activities. The law says that the VC would be "a whole-time principal academic" and an executive officer.

The VC shall have the power to recruit, on a purely temporary basis for a period of not more than six months, by reporting to the syndicate, the law says.

But the UGC report reveals that Prof Sobhan flouted all the laws.

UGC REPORT

The UGC investigated 17 allegations made by the RU teachers and job seekers and found them to be true.

"Each of the allegations of corruption, irregularities and nepotism proved moral turpitude beyond doubt," the report reads.

Prof Sobhan ended his first term as the VC in 2013 amid allegations of recruiting some 330 teachers against 204 advertised posts and 344 other employees.

At the beginning of his second term in May 2017, Prof Sobhan relaxed the Standard Policies of 2015 for educational qualifications of job seekers.

"Relaxing of policies opened the door for lowering the quality of the university's education and research," the UGC report says.

At least 34 teachers, including Prof Sobhan's daughter and son-in-law, were appointed through relaxing the rule.

The probe found several examples of recruitment of people who are not eligible to apply, and of rejecting job seekers with more qualifications than the ones who got hired.

The UGC probe documented incidents of seeking and receiving bribes from the job seekers by Prof Sobhan and several top officials of the administration.

The illegal recruitments are likely to be a burden on the national exchequer while the under-qualified teachers and officers would become barriers to achieving sustainable development goals for education, it said.

The report also said the RU authorities didn't cooperate with the investigation which in itself is a punishable offence. The people facing the allegations claimed to be innocent, but failed to provide documents to support their claim.

Based on the report, the Ministry of Education in December last year issued the embargo on recruitment.

But in January, the RU administration received a humanitarian request from the Prime Minister's Office to hire a physically challenged person as an officer. The Daily Star has a copy of the request.

According to newspaper reports citing audio clips, Prof Sobhan took it as an opportunity and asked job seekers to demonstrate against him demanding recruitment.

Then he began a process of recruitment, but his attempts were unsuccessful until Thursday.

Besides hiring some 50 ruling party men, most of the 137 new recruits got the job by paying bribes and having political leaders lobby for them.

The Daily Star tried all day long to reach Prof Sobhan yesterday, but he did not respond. However, Bangla Tribune quoted him claiming his innocence. "I was forced to give appointments on my last work day. No one cooperated with me to follow the due process. That's why I took it as a challenge," he said.

About the ministry order terming the recruitment illegal, he said, "No one has the authority to declare the recruitments illegal. I did it following the rules. I have legal power to appoint teachers and staffers on an ad hoc basis."

 

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