KARACHI: A recent decision by the Karachi University (KU) syndicate pertaining to the reappointment of a junior teacher as department chairperson has stirred controversy on the campus and caused unrest among teachers, sources told Dawn.

They said that the syndicate in its April 10 meeting violated seniority rules and decided to continue with a junior teacher as the department chairman of Islamic learning for another three-year term.

The university rules, they said, required the appointment of senior-most teacher as department chairperson. In this particular case, they said, it was Dr Zahid Ali Zahidi, a full professor at the Islamic learning department teaching since 1997.

Prof Zahidi had served as the department chairperson for three years prior to the first appointment of Dr Arif Khan Saqi, an associate professor, as department head.

“There were two candidates for the chairmanship; Prof Zahidi and Dr Saqi, who had completed his term. It was Prof Zahidi’s turn to be appointed as department chairperson again,” said a KU teacher.

He explained that in cases where there was only one full professor and an associate professor at a department, the university syndicate provided each of them a chance to head the department for three years in rotation and this had been the university’s policy for decades.

It might be recalled that the April 10 syndicate meeting also saw a walkout of five members in protest over the appointment of a professor. Heated arguments were exchanged during the meeting as some of the syndicate members were of the view that Dr Saleha Rehman didn’t qualify to be hired as professor.

Later, syndicate member Dr Atta-ur-Rehman intervened and brought back the protesting teachers. A committee headed by Dr Rehman was constituted with Prof Shah Ali-ul-Qader and Dr S.M. Taha as its other members to determine the qualification of Dr Saleha.

Note of dissent

Sources said two members of the syndicate had submitted their note of dissent to the KU vice chancellor in which they had described the decision of appointing Dr Saqi as department chairman as against “the university code and its rotation policy”.

“We are recording our dissent (through this letter). Such decisions deprive deserving candidates of their right and also explain why directors are heading some KU institutes/centres for a long period of time.”

Upon contact, KU Vice Chancellor Prof Khalid Mehmood Iraqi argued that it was a unanimous decision of the syndicate and that “university rules didn’t bar continuing with the same chairperson”.

“The suggestion that Dr Saqi was performing well and should be given another term was shared by a syndicate member and was endorsed by other members. No member raised an objection on the matter during the meeting’s proceedings whose video and audio recordings are available,” he said.

About the note of dissent, he clarified that it wasn’t (technically) a note of dissent because the members concerned didn’t inform the forum during the meeting that they would submit a note of dissent against the decision in coming days.

Replying to the VC’s contention, Prof Shah Ali-ul-Qader, also president of Karachi University Teachers’ Society who had submitted the note of dissent along with Prof Mansoor Ahmed, said: “We did raise objection over the decision and termed it against university rules during the meeting, which obviously meant that we intended to submit a note of dissent later.”

The university code on matters related to the appointment of department chairpersons and directors of institutes says that “the chairman of a teaching department or the director of an institute shall be appointed by the syndicate on the recommendation of the vice chancellor from amongst three most senior professors and three most senior associate professors of the department, for a period of three years.

“Provided that where there is no professor or associate professor in a department, it shall be looked after by the dean of the faculty with the assistance of the most senior teachers of the department,” it says.

Meanwhile, Prof Zahidi has also conveyed his reservations over the syndicate decision through a letter to the vice chancellor, urging him not to notify the reappointment.

Published in Dawn, April 23rd, 2021

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