Criminology dept at DU: Dogged by irregularities
The Criminology Department of Dhaka University is apparently plagued by so many irregularities that students wrote to the vice-chancellor and even pleaded before the High Court for remedy.
The students alleged that the teachers do not hold the required number of classes, deliberately delay publishing sessional marks, and fail to submit evaluated answer scripts on time, resulting in the delay of results publication and graduation.
They alleged that some teachers indulge in favouritism while giving grades.
Two letters, one anonymously, were sent to the VC and pro-VC but they got no solution to their problems.
Rather, their letters resulted in the criminology department forming two committees, comprised of teachers the students have complaints against, to probe who wrote the anonymous letter and why four students bypassed the department and reached out to the pro-VC.
Those who wrote one of the letters have now alleged that they have been threatened with consequences by the teachers.
The anonymous letter to Pro-VC Prof ASM Maksud Kamal in December brought a slew of allegations against the teachers. The Daily Star spoke to eight students who said that the letter spoke the truth.
The letter said teacher of the department Prof Zia Rahman took only three online classes in nine months of the first semester for master's degree.
Teachers are required by rules to give two 90-minute lectures and hold a 60-minute discussion or tutorial class every week and no more than 40 percent of the classes can be online.
Prof Zia imparted the three lessons on a course that is similar but different to the one the students were studying, read the letter, which this paper has a copy of.
It said the students realised this error when they tried to register for the exams and were told by officials that they don't have the course.
"We contacted the department immediately," said a student.
Prof Zia, also the dean of the social sciences faculty, had to hold several classes over a month to finish teaching the course. This delayed the exams by a month, said students.
The letter alleged that Prof Zia and Associate Prof Khandaker Farzana Rahman do not publish sessional results on time, which they are required to do within two weeks of an exam.
Sessional results are scores on students' attendance, mid-term exams, assignments, and presentations.
It said department Chairman Associate Prof Shaharia Afrin held most classes online and Assistant Prof ABM Najmus Sakib indulged in favouritism in giving grades.
Four 4th year students on December 26 wrote to the VC and pro-VC asking that their answer scripts for the 7th semester final exams be re-evaluated by an independent exam committee.
The students -- Sakin Tanvir, Mehbeez Binte Matiur, Shozayet Ullah Bhuiyan, and Tahnan Mahjabin Adhora – wrote the letter after learning that they got poor scores on a course taught by Prof Zia.
On January 19, they also learnt that they got 2 out of 20 on a mid-term test on Prof Zia's course.
The four wrote to the VC, while sending copies to the pro-VC and controller on June 1 demanding the same.
Pro-VC Prof Maksud said, "After receiving the letters, I asked the authorities concerned [exam controller] to take steps. I cannot take action regarding the other letter as it was anonymous."
He said the exam controller's office told him that it would not be possible due to technicalities.
Two of the four students filed a writ with the HC seeking the halt of the provisional certificate issuance for their batch and an order for the university to probe within two months.
An HC bench has issued a rule in their favour.
Pro-VC Maksud said he learnt that some teachers in the department do not publish mid-term results on time and submit answer scripts two to three months after the deadline.
After the teachers learnt about the anonymous letter and the demand for re-evaluation of answer scripts, they held a meeting with students on January 19.
A group of the students afterwards wrote to the department chairman demanding the writers of the anonymous letter be identified and punished.
At an academic committee meeting of the department on January 25, two committees were formed with four teachers. The anonymous letter had complaints against three of the members.
One committee summoned the four students on February 7 and at least two of the students alleged that the probe body threatened to take action against them bringing allegations of plagiarism.
"We are now worried about our future," said a student, seeking anonymity.
Shozayet Ullah Bhuiyan said, "If they [the university] had the will to re-evaluate the scripts, they would have investigated the issue and taken action. But instead of doing so, we are being harassed by the department committee."
On not taking classes, Prof Zia told this newspaper, "This is an utter lie. The so-called allegations you are referring to are based on a fake letter that was issued with no names nor signatures."
In his written reply, he said he did not teach students the wrong course. "I was given responsibility for two courses; one in the first semester and the other in the second. There was just an issue of beginning the 2nd course first but the minute I was informed that it had to be the other course, classes were taken accordingly.
"My students were extremely cooperative about this as well. Both courses were completed on time, and the students did well in both too."
Prof Zia said the four students got the marks according to their performance and that the same four had got nine out of 10 in another assessment.
He pointed out that roughly 20 other students performed poorly in the exam but the others made no complaints.
Someone provoked them to file the complaint, he said, adding, "This is the dirty reality of university politics and this is perhaps what happens when teachers use students to attack their own colleagues."
Talking about students' allegations of intimidation, Chairman of the department Shaharia and Assistant Professor Najmus said they did not have any intention to threaten students.
"It is really a problem if the discussion is presented before you in a fabricated way," Shaharia said.
She said their committee could not find out who sent the anonymous letter. Asked about re-evaluation of the exam results, she said, "As they went to higher authorities, the department cannot say anything about it."
Asked about allegations of taking more classes online than allowed, she said she took the online classes following university rules and after consultations with students.
Najmus refuted allegations of favouritism against him.
Former chairman of the department Farzana admitted that she had on occasion missed the deadlines for publishing sessional results and said many other teachers of the university miss the deadlines.
DU Vice-Chancellor Prof Akhtaruzzaman said he did not know about the committees formed by the criminology department.
Asked if students could reach out to him bypassing course teachers, the department chairman, and student advisers, he said students who have grievances can reach out to the VC.
When told that the department formed a committee to probe why the students bypassed the department and went to the VC and pro-VC, Prof Akhtaruzzaman said, "Such acts [forming the committees] are unacceptable.
"It is very unusual to consider such complaints of students as a crime. We are here to ensure justice. Students have nothing to fear," he added.
Pro-VC Maksud said, "All decisions of departments and the university should be student-friendly. If any students become frightened about any decision of the authorities, it is tantamount to harassment of the students."