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Editorial: Free university from fear

Editorial: Free university from fear
Tribhuvan University (TU), the oldest and largest in the country, is again in the limelight for the wrong reasons. Excessive politics is destabilizing the institution all over again as it continues to be used by political parties to push their partisan interests. On August 29, the main opposition CPN-UML flagged this issue in the parliament, prompting speaker Agni Prasad Sapkota to ask the government to take measures to resolve the chronic problem. In the past three years, different student unions have padlocked TU offices for a total of 300 days. This time, it is the Nepal Student Union (NSU), a student wing of ruling Nepali Congress (NC), which is into the dirty act. Two years ago, NSU cadres had thrashed Assistant Professor Prem Chalaune. A case has been filed at Kathmandu District Court against those involved but the coalition government is trying to withdraw the case. Concerns over the security of TU teachers, who continue to face various threats, are growing. Clearly, university classes cannot be run in an atmosphere of insecurity.

All political parties and student unions are equally responsible for the current state. Excessive politics is weakening the institution, degrading the equality of education, and boosting corruption. It is not only the unions; whichever party comes to power, they routinely interfere in the university’s functioning.

For far too long, student unions have behaved like a law unto themselves, often with robust backing of their mother parties. Top political leaders cultivate them largely to be used to heat up the street during political protests or to hound their opposition. The student unions have little interest in actually helping improve the quality of education. The government should take immediate measures to resolve the ongoing problems and ensure complete security inside the university. Unions should in all cases be barred from disruptive activities like padlocking university offices, and their members must be punished when they threaten teachers and administrators. The unions should be helping with the university’s development as a learning environment for teachers and students alike. If not, they can be done away with.