by Shah Rukn-e-Alam We must…
by Raza Gillani
I studied at FAST – NUCES for around a year in 2013-14. I wanted to become a software engineer but ended up leaving the university to study politics at GC. Recently FAST passed this demonic notification.
It has threatened students with expulsion and disciplinary action over some memes they had shared on their social media. Foolishly enough, this includes students who have graduated. They are threatening to cancel their degrees unless a public apology is made. This includes students of my batch as well, who aren’t even enrolled students anymore!
The purpose of writing this is not just to condemn this draconian notification, but also to clarify that this isn’t the first case of such self righteous and vile decision making. Lets talk about what this presumed ‘best computer sciences university’ of our country has been up to in the last few years.
This is a university that charges students with fines of over 10k for actions as meagre as ‘carrying a water bottle in the garden’, or ‘eating outside the cafeteria’, among others. This is a university that has had the infamous 6-inch policy, which dictated boys and girls to maintain a six inch distance at all times (why exactly 6-inches, one might wonder!). They even went to the extent of banning boys and girls from playing badminton together because they felt it ‘tarnished’ whatever godforsaken cultural traditions they wanted to protect. This is a university where students are deliberately failed in courses so that the administration can make huge profits, from the fee students have to pay while repeating the courses when they fail (which usually amounts to at least more than 20k). I was personally charged almost 20k for not returning a book issued from the library for a couple of months (which usually costs around Rs. 1-5 per day after 14 days at local libraries). We have had classes where teachers would close classroom doors five or ten minutes before the official time the class is supposed to start and then refuse to afford students any relaxation for not being ‘punctual enough’ (even when they don’t reach their classes on their allocated times). This university is run through a carefully constructed profit making mechanism, predicated upon bullying, coercion and discipline, without the slightest regard for student rights and mental wellbeing.
This is also a university where students, despite paying huge amounts of money, are not given even a tiny bit of representation in the official decision making. Every decision is made without any consultation with the students; the directors, manager academics, and controller examinations, etc. rule the university as if it were their personal empire. And such notifications are a kind of bullying mechanisms they use when students choose to speak over social media about these issues, even after they had graduated.
The FAST administration usually takes such liberties because of its good reputation in the market and how it’s graduates earn proportionately more than those who study at public sector institutions.
I also want to emphasise that this is also not the first university to make use such of authoritarian measures to discipline its subjects. The King Edward Medical University has recently taken the same measures as well.The university surveilled students’ social media accounts, including the ones they liked. They were strictly advised in their classrooms, by the Vice Chancellor himself, that they must only project a positive image of the university and that any criticism posted online would be met with disciplinary action. Students either faced official disciplinary action, or were bullied and ostracised by the administration for being too outspoken.
This was happening at a time when a girls’ hostel had been intruded by unknown men, but the students were forced to remain silent about it. Lately, they have also called upon students who ran a meme page and coerced them to delete it.
Universities like FAST are fronts of the Pakistan’s private education mafia, whose work is predicated upon making education a successful business model for a tiny class of investors and owners. They treat students like machines, discipline them as if they’re underage animals, and use them as commodities in the market to enhance their reputation as producers of the ‘best graduates’. This process is based on the complete dehumanisation of students, their dignity, aspirations, traumas, and humanity is trampled over repeatedly by deans and directors, while their parents are forced to work overtime even in their old age to keep up with their children’s education bills.
If these universities are so worried about their image on social media, then they must start treating students like humans and stop denying them the representation in decision making that they rightfully deserve.
Pakistan is officially at war with its own students. Recently, students, including men and women, were arrested and tortured in Quetta for protesting against the absence of internet in Balochistan and other peripheral areas. The same happened in Sindh where protestors were met with violence for demanding the release of missing students (take a moment to realise just how horrifying it is that students can just be made to disappear).
Students are being picked up and put into prisons, without any legal rights, for protesting for their dignity and humanity. Pakistan remains one of the few countries in the world where student unions are banned, while state backed extremist organisations continue to roam free and harass students as and faculty in broad daylight, in major campuses of the country.
No university has a functional sexual harassment committee, even after cameras were found to have installed by the administration in female washrooms in the University of Balochistan.
While public institutions are being run by a naked use of force, these private institutions dehumanise students to increase their profits.
This war must end immediately!
We are the future of this country. We deserve to live with dignity and to pursue education without being dehumanised.