HYDERABAD: The allegedly slapdash appointment procedure for the long-awaited Sindh University (SU) vice-chancellor has left the apprehensions among the faculty of the province’s second largest higher education institution firmly in place.
The appointment, likely to occur in January 2015, is taking place over a year after the varsity lapsed into the ad hoc headship of a VC who stuck to the post on extension, followed by two acting VCs, one of whom is continuing in office.
Around 45 candidates have been shortlisted for the interviews, which are slated to be held on January 2 and 3, 2015. The sheer number of applicants vying for the BPS-22 post, their credentials and the lack of academic background of the three-member search committee have unnerved the SU teachers. The committee, disapproved of by the teaching community for its political and bureaucratic composition, comprises MNA Dr Azra Fazal Pechuho, Dr Asim Hussain and retired bureaucrat Mazhar Siddiqi.
“There are retired persons, bureaucrats, an army officer and administrators in the race to become VC,” said Dr Ayaz Keerio, the SU Teachers Association (Suta) president. “But we will resort to boycotts and protests if someone without an academic background is appointed.”
He told The Express Tribune that the shortlisted candidates included acting VCs Prof Abida Tahirani and Prof Imdad Ismaili, pro-VCs Muhammad Nawaz Narejo and Dr Anwar Shah and faculty deans Dr Parveen Munshi, Noor Muhammad Jamali and Abdullah Dayo. Dr Pervez Pathan, Dr Siddique Kalhoro, Dr Riaz Memon, Dr Shahbuddin Memon and Ghulam Sarwar Gachal, all of whom are senior professors, are also among the applicants.
The candidates also include the antiquities secretary Kaleem Lashari, former district administration officials Tameez Khehro, Brigadier (retd) Riasat Ali, SU registrar Ghulam Muhammad Bhutto and former registrar Nawaz Narejo.
“The advertisement [published for the post in November] said that candidates with PhD degrees would be preferred,” said Dr Azhar Ali Shah, vice president of Federation of All Pakistan Universities Academic Staff Association. “If this was so, why were so many non-PhD holders shortlisted after having over a dozen candidates with PhDs?” He said that this reflected a lack of seriousness on part of the government, adding that the procedure was devoid of the indispensable academic credentials for the VC.
The number of interviews being held in just two days also left the faculty members worried. “We don’t understand how the committee is going to make the interviews any different from students’ viva voces, which last only a few minutes,” said Dr Shah. “The candidates are supposed to go through extensive questioning!”
The rules for appointment of the VC in all public-sector varsities in the province were relaxed through the Sindh Universities and Institutes Laws amendment last month. “There shall be a vice-chancellor of the university who shall be an eminent scholar or a ‘distinguished administrator,'” reads the amendment.
The SU witnessed a period of turmoil that began after the murder of Prof Bashir Channar at the campus in January 2012. The fuming teachers, who did not approve of the appointment of Dr Nazir A Mughal as VC, gave full vent to their rage and started boycotting classes. The protests continued sporadically as long as Mughal remained on the post.
He retired on January 4 this year but stuck to the seat by filing a petition in the Sindh High Court, which was dismissed on June 12. This was despite the fact that the Sindh government had already advertised the post in October 2013. After his retirement, Dr Tahirani and then Dr Ismaili were given acting charge as the government kept delaying interviews for the position.
Dr Arfana Mallah, a former Suta president, expressed her fear that another VC of Mughal’s ilk would be foisted on the varsity. “This will instigate another era of confrontation between the academia and the management, boding ill for the biggest university in Sindh outside Karachi.”
The Express Tribune was unable to contact search committee member Mazhar Siddiqi for his comments.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 23rd, 2014.