In an event that occurred at the end of last year, before this blog was born - two academics of Universiti Utara Malaysia, Dr Azly Abdul Rahman and Dr Mutiara Mohamad (husband and wife) received termination letters from their university for not signing the "Akujanji" letter - a solemn promise they "will not disobey or behave in any way that can be interpreted as disobedience." Dr Azly Rahman was director of Universiti Utara Malaysia's Technology Learning Unit, while Dr Mutiara Mohamad was deputy dean of UUM's School of Languages and Scientific Thinking. Both husband and wife are at Columbia University, New York, since 1997 for their doctoral studies.
Dr Azly Abdul Rahman is also currently a columnist in Malaysiakini and his story is being recounted by Nurul Nazirin here.
Azly and Mutiara, who are married to each other, were told to leave the cognitive sciences and education faculty with effect from Dec 8 last year for failure to sign the Akujanji (pledge of loyalty), as all employees in the public sector are required to do.The couple have filed an appeal within the 30 days provided in the letter of termination, but they have yet to hear any response from the university in the past 8 months. 8 months!
As the unjust termination of employment of critical academics have shown in the current year, exemplified by Dr Terence Gomez of Universiti Malaya as well as Prof P Ramasamy of Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia - our universities are on the verge of becoming institutions of restricted learning.
The irony of the case of Dr Azly Abdul Rahman was that one of the courses which he teaches is on thinking skills:
"I taught the courses 'Ilmu Pemikiran dan Etika' (Thinking Skills and Ethics) (at UUM) and I was fired for asking questions in a university that offers those foundation courses?" Azly told malaysiakini in an email.What type of thinking skills are we developing exactly? "Four legs good, two legs better"?
"But I wish to educate more than aggravate. This is essentially what I am at heart and will always be - an educator for critical consciousness. Human beings have their follies, and worse, if they create institutions to hide behind.
"Our role is to illuminate others on how to read these institutions so that human beings hiding behind them can be seen through the walls."