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May 17, 2021

Teachers point out conflict of interest in process for appointments and promotions in Fuuast

Some teachers of the Federal Urdu University of Arts, Science and Technology (Fuuast), who were accusing the varsity administration of irregularities in the selection process, have heaved a sigh of relief after the varsity’s acting administration recently told the Fuuast senate that they would review their decision of holding the selection board meeting for appointments and promotions under a 2017 advertisement.

However, those teachers, who requested anonymity, are still completely not sure whether the current administration would cancel its plan of making appointments and promotions before a permanent vice chancellor (VC) takes over. They believe that

The controversy began after the current acting management of the varsity decided to do away with the selection board for the posts of associate professors and professors advertised in 2013 while carrying out the selection process for the same positions advertised in 2017.

That move was expected to result in litigation as a majority of senior faculty members of the varsity would become juniors and subordinates to their juniors who completed their education and research work under their supervision and guidance.

Earlier in 2020, former Fuuast acting VC Prof Dr Arif Zubair had formed a scrutiny committee to process applications for selections and promotions based on the 2017 advertisement. The committee had to shortlist the candidates for selections and promotions and there were many sub-committees working under it in various faculties.

The scrutiny committee had also pinpointed various issues in the selection process that needed to be addressed. However, instead of continuing with the previous committee and implementing its recommendations, the current administration of the varsity formed a new scrutiny committee to work from scratch – a move that was dubbed by some faculty members as an effort to select and promote favourites.

The last time the varsity held the selection board was 2018 when Prof Dr Altaf Hussain was the permanent VC of Fuuast. That selection board, however, was under the 2013 advertisement. Some faculty members allege that only some favourites were promoted then and the rest of applicants were ignored.

In October 2019, the Islamabad High Court removed Prof Hussain from the VC post. The acting administration that followed him questioned the selection process initiated by him.

The current administration, however, wanted to follow Prof Hussain’s suit and hold the selection board in April but had to defer it due to extraneous factors. Now, according to a spokesperson for Fuuast, the administration has told the Senate that they would review their decision.

Conflict of interest

Some senior teachers of Fuuast, who asked not to be named, said that many top members, including the acting registrar of the current setup, are also applicants for the latest selection board this is why they want to hold the selection board of 2017, ignoring the incomplete selections of 2013.

Moreover, the Fuuast senate, which is the highest decision-making body of the varisty, has not legitimised the professorship and deanship of some faculty members who are leading the recent scrutiny committee and selection board.

A teacher said that some members of the current scrutiny committee were also part of the previous scrutiny committee but now they were silent over the issues they had themselves identified in their report when they were part of the previous committee. “These members are now part of the game. They want to promote each other and don’t want to miss this opportunity,” said a senior teacher of the science faculty.

The current management of the varsity has completely rejected the report of the last scrutiny committee, which was officially submitted by the members of that committee to the registrar and VC offices. However, the report of the new scrutiny committee has not been provided to the applicants.

“The present acting administration wants to keep the fresh report secret and make selections and promotions in secrecy against the rules,” said another teacher, who is also one of the applicants. He also said that the current selection process may be challenged in court because there were serious flaws in the scrutiny process. “They are going to bypass the set criteria for their own promotions and benefits,” he alleged.

Last committee’s report

An eight-member committee formed in 2020 had in its initial report stated that the faculty of arts and education submitted its final scrutiny report of the candidates in July 2019 for the selection board 2013. However, the management didn’t consider that report of the arts and education faculty and in the meantime, scrutiny reports of five departments of the science faculty were considered and the dossiers of the candidates sent to referees.

The report revealed that when the central scrutiny committee started reviewing the departmental scrutiny reports, the dean of the science faculty and convener of the selection board washed out all the computer data. They also later confessed that they had deleted the data. However, the scrutiny committee exerted pressure on them, due to which some of the data was recovered but that was incomplete and the data of the Fuuast Islamabad campus was not provided to the central scrutiny committee.

It was also found that the doctorate degree of some candidates, now part of the current management, were not in the fields in which they had applied for professorship and associate professorship. According to the Higher Education Commission of Pakistan’s rules, the doctorate degrees of candidates must be in their relevant fields.

In the selection process, two female professors were declared unqualified but later they were declared eligible. Similarly, the candidates from the Islamabad campus were not entertained. This report was submitted as the initial report. However, as Prof Zubair was removed from the position of the acting VC, the committee could not submit its final report.

Power of acting management

It has been established by the Lahore High Court that the acting management of the public sector varsities is only supposed to look after day-to-day matters and they are not entitled to make administrative decisions. Considering this case, the Fuuast senate had also barred Prof Zubair from making administrative and permanent decisions.

However, in the 46th Fuuast senate meeting held on March 13, a group of senate members empowered the present acting VC, Dr Rubina Mushtaq, to make permanent decisions.

It is pertinent to mention here that Fuuast has been facing an administrative crisis for the past decade in which none of the VCs completed their tenure. Currently, the varsity is without a permanent VC and is running on adhocisim.

Last month, the Sindh High court set aside the ongoing exercise of shortlisting candidates for the VC, and directed the search committee to conduct the selection process de novo.

The order came during a hearing of a petition of Prof Mohammad Zahid, who challenged the appointment of the search committee members, and sought reconstitution of the search committee in view of the guidelines set by the HEC.