Do we need political bodies at private universities?
Just like mainstream Bangladeshi parents, my parents used to dream of me getting into Buet (Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology) someday. Then we woke up to the headlines of Buet student Abrar Fahad being beaten to death by some egregious members of Bangladesh Chhatra League's (BCL) Buet unit. The nation protested; social media platforms were flooded with outrage.
Three years later, we are accepting an unjustified indignity as the same group is said to be inflating their network – or to be more precise, proliferate terror.
On September 2, Chhatra League announced that it had formed committees at some leading private universities, including North South University (NSU), Independent University Bangladesh (IUB), Brac University, etc.
One of the primary reasons why some students prefer to study at private universities in Bangladesh, given they are geographically and financially able to do so, is because they don't want to be beaten up for not offering Salam to their seniors who establish their power with hockey sticks in their hands. I have seen people from middle class families moving all the way to Dhaka from different parts of the country, after their fathers sold land and their mothers sold jewelleries, just so their children could get a degree while living in the big-budget capital.
The leading private universities of the country are giving their best to climb up the international university rankings, to be permitted to have PhD programmes, and facing a lot of other challenges. In the midst of battling between progression and deterrents, do they now have to restructure their entire system because the ruling party's student wing wants to construct kingdoms on their campuses?
Almighty forbid, who will be held accountable when a boy who aspired to build the next unicorn in Bangladesh gets beaten up and killed, and his death becomes another headline? Who will be held accountable when a girl who dreamt of going abroad to work at Google someday is scared to attend classes because of the infamous student politics body? Who will be held accountable when parents, who paid big time for the degree of their child, only to come to the city not to attend their child's convocation, but to receive their dead body?
During such a sensitive period where people are losing trust in private universities due to the corruption charges raised against some institutions, do we need another obstacle to instil mistrust and fear within another student, instead of aspiration? The primary motive of student politics is to shape up the minds of future activists to think like leaders who will run the nation someday, not train them with sharp weapons to transform into hoodlums.
Let's rewind a few years, when the road safety movement took place. It was the "unidentified" helmet gang who spread terror across the nation, and students were afraid to continue their protest peacefully. If that's the condition of our nation's student politics atmosphere, do we really need that at private universities?
In private universities, students have the right to take courses as per the open credit system, engage in extracurricular activities as they want, and choose the faculties/sections as per their convenience. If the students are so eager to welcome political committees and become activists, it should be a voluntary option that they can engage in outside of the campus. A private university should never welcome such a precarious movement in the first place.
Rafeed Elahi Chowdhury is an author and marketer.