The KU incidents and others elsewhere reveal that university discrimination is a country-wide problem that requires a country-wide solution and administration by a country-wide body. Fortunately for Bangladesh, there already exists such a body in UGC, whose broad objectives are as follows:
'The primary objectives of the UGC are to supervise, maintain, promote and coordinate university education. It is also responsible for maintaining standard and quality in all the public and private universities in Bangladesh. The UGC assesses the needs of the public universities in terms of funding and advises the government in various issues related to higher education in Bangladesh.
To prevent discrimination in universities under its umbrella, UGC should also be responsible for formulating and implementing a country-wide fairness code of conduct (FCC) for teachers to comply with.
The FCC should have explicit requirements of: goal-setting by each department with respect to fair and equitable treatment of students and young teachers; reviewing and signing annually by each teacher and department head of an FCC declaration form of compliance and returning it to UGC; encouraging reporting by students and young teachers of university discrimination to UGC, with assurance of no punitive actions by perpetrators; reviewing by UGC of each complaint promptly; and taking corrective actions, including FCC training, suspension, or termination of culpable parties.
FCC should also have strict guidelines for university department heads to follow, while nominating students for external scholarships, hiring new teachers, and nominating new teachers for post-graduate scholarships.
For training purposes, UGC may prepare an FCC teaching video, including examples of what actions constitute discrimination; how teachers may avoid taking those actions; and how victims may deal with discriminations. The video may also contain examples of relevant teachable incidents of inclusiveness and fairness, like the two detailed in this article. Raising frequent awareness of treating students and young teachers fairly should be a key objective of the training.
A comprehensive FCC, with specified consequences for non-compliances, should act as a deterrent to university discrimination. A teacher or a department head may stop and think before taking unfair actions that are reviewable and disciplinable by UGC.
An FCC benefits all stakeholders in university education and management. Teachers and department heads, being aware of what is expected of them, will benefit by avoiding unpleasant consequences like what the KU department head had experienced. Students and young teachers will benefit for not being subjected to demoralizing discriminations. Universities will benefit for not having to deal with unpleasant distractions and unfavourable publicities. UGC will benefit by ensuring universities improve education quality in a discrimination-free, edifying environment. The government will benefit from improvement in education quality that will lead to betterment in the country's economy, propelling it to achieve the goal of surpassing the recently announced lower-middle income position in World Bank ranking.
MS achieved so much more, with so much less money and talent, than other institutions, by creating a learning environment that was goal-driven, results-oriented, and free of discrimination. That environment unleashed the dormant energy of students and teachers, allowing them achieve unprecedented excellence in education, in a rural setting. The five-decades-old MS model, updated and administered by UGC, should bring even more successes in modern-day Bangladeshi universities, having accesses to superior funding, talent, and training.
That Friday on way home from work, I was driving on Crowchild Trail North in Calgary, still thinking of the KU incidents. Many drivers were overtaking me, some driving at more than100 km/h in an 80 km/h zone. Then a sudden slowdown all around startled me, making me think, as though I was approaching yet another wallet-emptying toll booth on a newly-built high-speed national highway, while driving through Spain after the 2009 Barcelona Marathon. I braked hard for the Calgary car ahead. To my right, lying in wait in a hide-out under Shaganappi Trail overpass, was a black-and-white police patrol car --- the reason for the sudden slowdown by the delinquent drivers.
'There had to be a deterrent!' I exclaimed.
The outlines of two unfamiliar female figures from the far-away place surfaced again. Rushing to my study after parking the car in the garage, I typed a title and continued typing until I was slowed down by what felt like yet another pull of pusillanimity. I heard again a string of negative questions from within: 'Why?' 'What to gain?' 'What if?' and 'For whom?'
'Your tea,' said a familiar female figure, disappearing faster than she had appeared, leaving the door behind her ajar. A glimmer of fading light bounced off the beige tiles in the foyer, finding its way to the study. I let the tilted rim of the fuming cup touch my longing lips, ever so gently. A savoury taste turned the neurotransmitters in my tongue free, making them dance in glee. The pall of gloom, around since my early morning reading of the DO article, gave in to the joie de vivre of the twilight tea. The lyrics of a Tagore song 'March alone, in case no one is ready to join', playing in YouTube, provided a push of intrepidity to take action and share with others the solution --- for the benefit of posterity.
Not from Harvard, not from Cambridge or Oxford, the proposed solution to university discrimination, surprisingly, is not even from a university. Triggered by a serendipitous reading of the DO article, it is inspired by a rural school of Bangladesh, its award-winning, visionary headmaster, and two teachable incidents from its hallowed veranda. In that vein, the solution to the discrimination problem is devoid of bias. Being indigenous, it is also
propitious.r (The End)
Tapan Chakrabarty, a seven-continent marathon finisher, an inventor and an innovator, writes from Calgary, Canada