Campus politics: The way ahead
Politicized student unions should be banned from campus premises. A student is free to be involved with any political party based on his/her political ideologies but the political work should be limited outside the campus premises
Tribhuvan University is conducting the Free Students’ Union (FSU) elections on Falgun 18 in its affiliated campuses after a long interval of eight years.
The purpose of this election is meant to bring out a team of students that can and should work for the benefit of the students. However, based on experience, I am not very optimistic that the Students’ Union to be formed, if at all, will be able to fulfill this.
The simple reason for this is the involvement of the politicized student bodies who are mainly accountable to their mother parties instead of the students. They put their parties’ interest as a priority rather than the priorities of the students or the campus, for that matter.
Some 12 years ago, when I was an engineering student at Pulchowk Campus, I witnessed a FSU election. There were NSU, ANNFSU and other student bodies campaigning with their agendas. We used to get free lunch coupons from each of these bodies, which we of course enjoyed.
This was despite the fact that we did not care what agendas they put forward as we knew they were meant to do politics in the name of students and not to perform for the benefit of students. We were not interested in those elections as we saw only the political parties behind the student bodies.
We did not want to distract ourselves from the path of focusing and developing our future. We used to hear and knew about the irregularities of the FSU. I cannot remember any instance where the FSU had helped improve the academic environment besides burning tyres during fee hikes.
After all these years, when I reminisce about the campus I studied, I realize that many graduates from Pulchowk have enrolled themselves into prestigious institutions around the world for further studies.
They also have excelled academically far above than their peers from other institutions. This makes me believe that Pulchowk Engineering Campus has the possibility of being listed as one of the ace institutions in Asia.
But the campus is still in the same situation as it was when I was there, if not worse. The campus that holds the responsibility of producing competent engineers is ridden with problems. The main reason is the lack of innovative approaches to the educational system.
When the concerned stakeholders – student, teachers and administration – are more engaged in getting personal benefits associating themselves with politically affiliated unions, how can we expect the educational system to innovate?
We have student unions, teacher unions, employee unions, and each one of them is affiliated to different political parties who keep party interests above the need and requirement of the campus. None of these groups has any interest in the much-needed holistic improvement of the campuses.
I am not against these unions but the involvement of these politicized unions inside campus premises. It would have been better if they had put their political ideology outside the campus premises and focused on the development of the campus working hand in hand with other stakeholders.
Politicized student unions should be banned from campus premises. A student is free to be involved with any political party based on his/her political ideologies but the political work should be limited outside the campus premises.
They need to leave their political ideology at the gate and focus on their future and the campus and its reputation when they are inside its premises.
A Campus Council is the alternative that ensures the interests of the campus and its students. This council will consist of students, teachers, employees and parents too. They will work to improve the academic atmosphere, train the students to cope with the relevant demands of the time, link the academics to industry, collaborating with excellent institutions etc., to name just a few.
The student members in the Campus Council can come through elections held every two years as per the campus calendar. Other members in the council can be nominated by their meetings.
Election of the student representatives helps to institutionalize the democratic process. The students will get a chance to participate in campus politics.
They will learn to present their case, to understand their peers’ issues, to deal with the campus administration, to build network with related professionals etc. Elections at regular intervals will ensure the democratic process and periodic change of leaders will enhance vibrancy and efficiency of the team. The issues of the students will be handled by their peers themselves.
A Campus Council can meet at the beginning of every semester so that they can help direct the campus administration in efficiently managing the campus affairs for the next six months. It can also meet on an ad hoc basis, should a need arise prior to the next scheduled meet.
Pulchowk Campus and many other campuses can turn out to become excellent institutions of learning and overall growth. The more we fail to correct this, the more the best and the brightest will leave the nation to seek opportunities abroad.
The solution that I advocate will ensure that the best and the brightest are motivated to stay in the country to help improve the system and maintain academic standards which are cohesive and competitive in the context of the world around us.
Shrestha is an engineering graduate from Pulchowk Campus, TU