The teachers and students of Tribhuvan University are up in arms against the TU administration’s decision to extend the winter vacation by 11 days (till February 9) ‘for special reasons’. Mahendra Sanskrit University’s winter vacation has similarly been extended. The Nepal University Teachers’ Association (NUTA) and the eight student unions announced their decision to conduct the classes as originally scheduled, i.e. from yesterday. Though students and teachers were stopped from entering the campus premises, they held symbolic classes outside several campuses in the capital and even actual classes at one or two campuses. The unions gave the administration a 24-hour-long ultimatum to take back its decision. NUTA has accused the TU administration of ignoring the university calendar and of violating the values and norms of academic freedom. The TU adminisitration allegedly made the announcement without consulting the teachers or the students.

Though TU classes have suffered disruptions from time to time, this can be no justification for the current decision, which, students allege, probably rightly, was taken at the government’s behest for fear that the students might be more active in foiling the February 8 civic polls if the university was left open. Otherwise, the administration could have given specific reasons. The idea of closing public institutions and halting their important business for political convenience — that, too, by the establishment which is supposed to try to dissuade others from such a course — can only be deplored, as it promotes wrong practices and compromises the concept of university autonomy.

The examples of such undesirable practice can be found elsewhere too. The government’s decision to provide insurance cover for the election candidates, as also for the poll-related employees, at the taxpayers’ expense, provides a case of the government trying unsuccessfully to save its prestige in an election which already looks like a sham. In the past, too, th-ose in power allowed political convenience to dictate undesirable practices, often at a cost to the general public. But wrong past practices can offer no defensible reasons for present or future decisions. At a time when the public would welcome any decision, even tough but well-meant, to boost the quality of TU education, invigorate its academic environment, and improve its financial and general management to deal with the deep crisis it is in. Becoming a political tool, or at least the perception of it, would hardly do credit to TU’s image as an autonomous institution.