By Parliamentary Opposition Leader, DAP Secretary- General and MP for Kota Melaka, Lim Kit Siang, in Petaling Jaya on Thursday, 12.9.1985;
Call on Education Minister, Datuk Abdullah Badawi, to intervene in the ‘crisis of confidence’ in the Universiti Sains Malaysia administration among academicians and students to prevent a sharp decline in the university’s academic standards.
I was in Penang last weekend, and from my discussions with the Universiti Sains Malaysia lecturers, academic staff and students, it is clear that there is a crisis of confidence in the Universiti Sains Malaysia administration, and in particular the Vice Chancellor, Datuk Musa Mohamed, among academid staff and students.
I call on the Education Minister, Datuk Abdullah Badawi to intervene personally to resolve the crisis of confidence in the USM as if it is persisted without solution, it could lead to a sharp decline in the university’s academic standards.
Despite Datuk Musa Mohamed’s denials, it seems clear to me that the departure of two USM Deputy Vice Chancellors, Professor Sharom Ahmad (Research and Development) and professor Kamal Salih (Academics) is because of their frustration at the absence of meaningful consultations in the running of the University administration.
If the two highest university administrators after the Vice Chancellor like Deputy Vice Chancellors professor Sharom Ahmad and Professor Kamal Salih could be driven by the USM administration policies and practices to leave the university, the frustration of the academic staff could be imagined.
It would be a grave mistake for the Minister of Education, Datuk Abdullah Badawi, to regard the USM controversy as the work of a few culprits and trouble—makers. This would be to ignore the big groundswell of discontent and dissatisfaction among the general academic staff at the University administration, which operates by fiat rather than by consultation, and would make USM academic conditions so unsatisfactory
that the university’s academic standards would suffer serious deterioration.
The USM academics have made serious allegations and complaints about the USM administration which could not be dismissed lightly, and the Malaysian public have the right to know the truth of these a1legatior and complaints, as this is a matter which coneerns not merely USM administrators but the Malaysian taxpayers who are upkeeping it.
For instance, the allegation that the centralisation of power in the Vice has led to a patronage system whereby promotions are not based on academic excellence but favouritism is made or the first time in the history of Malaysia’s higher eduction.
The allegation that extremely junior staff members had been appointed to positions of academic and administrative leadership, although they have not distinguished themselves in any way, by—passing more senior members who are of better established academic excellence; administrative interference with curriculum matters; pressure on lectuers considered too strict in their grading of examination papers; attempts to reduce school boards and the university senate to ineffectual bodies; and the general slide towards the replacement of consultative processes with governance by administrative fiat; should be fully investigated b an independent body.
The Aliran’s proposal for a independent commission to conduct a comprehensive inquiry into the state of universities in the country, especially their academic standards and values, is one good suggestion. I urge the Education Minister to give the USM ‘crisis of confidence’ his urgent priority attention.