KARACHI: A number of irregularities have surfaced in the selection boards recently held at the mass communication department of Karachi University (KU) and several participating candidates have demanded that the university hold the process again under a ‘non-biased and independent panel of experts’, alleging that the selection process was ‘engineered’.

According to sources, some important points which bring into question the validity and transparency of the May 2 selection boards meant for the posts of lecturer and assistant professor included the fact that they were held after a delay of four years since publication of the advertisement for relevant positions in 2014.

The selection board for the position of associate professor advertised in the same year is still pending.

Secondly, five PhDs and three MPhil candidates, who applied for lecturer post, were rejected and candidates with the master’s degrees were reportedly chosen.

The PhD and MPhil candidates had applied on the basis of their master’s degree in 2014 but completed their doctorate and MPhil studies during the four years they had to wait for the selection board.

Of these eight candidates, three applicants have been teaching at KU’s mass communication department either as part-time or teaching assistant for the past several years whereas two applicants, currently associated with other universities, had the experience of teaching at the same department.

Their research work, teaching experience and higher degrees, however, were counted as negative points and they were reportedly rejected on the ground that they were ‘over-qualified’ for the lecturer post.

Posts advertised again

Thirdly, the concerned department and administrative staff at the university ‘ignored’ the fact that there were no vacant posts for the assistant professor cadre at the department as it already had eight assistant professors.

Notwithstanding, the selection board reportedly chose three candidates for the post of assistant professor.

More surprisingly, the department, which held the selection boards on a 2014 advertisement in 2019, has invited applications again for the posts of lecturer and assistant professor this year, though the earlier initiated hiring process hasn’t been completed as the university syndicate is yet to discuss and take decision on the list of recommended candidates.

Last but not the least, there seemed to be a media campaign against two candidates, both performed well in the entry test which preceded the selection board, as reports against their credentials coincided with the May 2 selection board, ending any possibility that they might have for selection.

“I was unfairly rejected in the interview. I request that my performance should be re-evaluated, if there is any audio or video recording of the selection board.

“False reports were run on the media on the day of selection board just to discredit my credentials,” reads an application by Noman Ansari, an MPhil candidate, also a teaching assistant at the same department.

PhDs rejected

Four rejected PhD candidates have also complained in writing against the selection board to the Vice Chancellor office.

“The selection board held on May 2, 2019, was biased, controversial and illegal. Extreme violations of merit, Higher Education Commission (HEC) guidelines for appointment of university faculty members and the University Code were observed in the whole Selection Board process,” says the application signed by Dr Yasmeen Sultana, Dr Sabir Ahmed, Dr Hafsa Siddiqui and

Nighat Sarwar.

Speaking to Dawn, a PhD candidate alleged that the selection board had rejected an internal non-PhD candidate for the post of assistant professor on the basis that he didn’t qualify for the post whereas PhD applicants for lecturer post were rejected for having ‘higher qualification’.

“Numerous PhD candidates have been appointed as lecturer at various departments of the university in the past. These departments include botany, Urdu, political science and chemistry. This shows that PhD candidates were not considered (in the selection board) for appointment under some pressure,” she said.

Asked about the controversial selection board, Prof Khalid Mahmood Iraqi, the acting KU vice chancellor, said that the matter had been marked to the registrar for placement in the next syndicate, which had powers to take decisions on selection boards.

About the validity of delayed selection boards, he said delay could only be justified in cases pertaining to associate professors and professors as the university had to wait for reports from external experts on applicants’ research and that the selection process shouldn’t take a long time for lecturer and assistant professor posts.

On hiring additional assistant

professors, he said: “I would only say that the department hasn’t done its homework. The new advertisement would be looked into.”

When contacted Prof Seemi Naghmana Tahir, the chairperson of KU’s mass communication department, said that 26 candidates were shortlisted for lecturer post and it wasn’t possible to accommodate all of them and that merit was not violated in any case.

“Obviously, we chose the best few. There was no pressure on us from any side,” she said, adding that the selection board included university officials and subject experts, apart from her.

On rejection of PhD candidates, she said that the doctorate degree was not required for lecturer post. “They were over qualified and we needed fresh candidates. (Besides) the PhD candidates performed poorly in the interview or you can say that their performance was not up to the mark.”

She admitted that there were no vacant posts for assistant professor but argued that these appointments would help fill the shortage of associate professors and professors at the department when promotions would take place.

She, however, refused to comment when asked about the necessity for inviting new applications for lecturer and assistant professor posts.

Sharing his opinion, Prof Jamil Kazmi, a senior KU teacher and twice president of Karachi University Teachers Society, said: “It’s unfortunate that PhDs are not being considered for teaching posts at KU contrary to the practice at other Pakistani universities. I also believe that a chairperson who is on extension and got a few months to retire shouldn’t be allowed to hold selection boards.”

Published in Dawn, May 24th, 2019