Friday, November 04, 2005

The Art of Flattery @ Universiti Malaya

Flattery is defined as (1) the act or practice of flattering, or (2)excessive or insincere praise in accordance to There are times where flattery is appropriate to give due recognition to the achievements and capabilities of the receipient. There are many other times however, where flattery and the visions of grandeur are contrived and insincere as attempts to “curry favour” or more crudely, to “bodek”.

We have always known that the art of currying favour is pervasive in our political circles with one always trying to outdo another in the attempt demonstrate one’s “absolute” loyalty to a senior politician. This is done in the hope that he or she will be able to gain, whether financially through contract handouts or other pecuniary gains through appointment to influential positions such as town councillors. This culture of currying favour is to be abhorred, although we tend to be more tolerant of it if it’s limited strictly to the sphere of politics.

However, when this “art” permeates into the culture of the elite academia of Malaysia, that’s when you know that things have really gone way too far. Where can you find clear examples of this culture in our universities? Well, they are really not hard to find at all. In the case of Universiti Malaya, you will find them on newspaper advertisements and large billboards and posters. But after a quick search, you can find it right on the university’s website itself!

Here’s some examples of how the university, clearly directed by the vice-chancellor utilises the crude version of the art of flattery and grandeur on his direct and indirect superiors:
Forgive my lack of understanding and comprehension of what the above statements. Maybe that’s why my English did not get an ‘A’ at ‘O’ Levels. I am completely gobsmacked as to what the above means.
Witness ISLAM HADHARI at work in UM!

The Prime Minister, YAB Dato’ Seri Abdullah Hj. Ahmad Badawi wants the nation to be Cemerlang, Gemilang & Terbilang and the nation should produce towering personalities. His Islam Hadhari wants Malaysia to prosper and move forward.
Yes, our Prime Minister will be most pleased with being mentioned in some of the most ungrammatical sentences you can find on the website. There is just so much enthusiasm in attempting to show that the vice chancellor and “his team” are “completely” in line and smitten with the Prime Minister’s vision and philosophy. If only they could channel these enthusiasm more productively, like towards actually constructively improve the standards of the university. The above is not the worst of it. There’s more:
The Minister for Higher Education, Dato’ Dr. Hj. Mohd. Shafie Salleh has diligently toiled in raising the standard of higher education. Through the PM’s and Minister of Higher Education’s untiring and sincere leadership, the nation is witnessing the rise of the universities and other institutions of higher learning.
Now, if the above statements are not meant to bodek the Prime Minister and the Minister of Higher Education, I don’t know what it is. Such statements really have no place in a university. Try searching the top universities in the United Kingdom, United States or even Australia – their vice-chancellors would probably rather one walked over their dead body than to condone such blatantly contrived statements of flattery.

Of course, the vice-chancellor cannot but help himself to end his eulogy with the following:
This year alone, it has done the nation proud by being named as one of the 100 best universities in the world.
Now this brings us back to the original debate. The vice-chancellor probably hasn’t had time to have his web development team update his website yet. Anyway, today you’d find the in the Star letters column, the first of probably many letters to be written by the deans of Universiti Malaya, coming to the defence of their beleaguered vice-chancellor. The letter, written by Prof Dr Mohamad Rom Tamjis, the Dean of the Faculty of Engineering, was entitled “UM Falls in Ranking But is on Right Track”. Hmmm...

Prof Dr Mohamad Rom Tamjis wanted to highlight certain “points” which the public may not have been “aware of”. He takes credit for the university’s credible ranking of 82nd in the area of biomedicine. Yes, his is the dean of the Faculty of Engineering. Although he wasn’t absolutely clear, he probably correlates the performance in the biomedicine sector to his 10-year-old biomedical engineering programme at UM.

No, Professor, the field of biomedicine is not equivalent to the degree in biomedical engineering. It is the field which in all probabilities is dominated by the faculty of medicine. The other subjects covered will be pharmacology and possibly biology, biochemistry and biomedical engineering. Is this an attempted case of trying to “hijack” credit?

Prof Dr Mohamad Rom Tamjis was also very proud of the fact that
… graduates from this course are well sought after by employers. There are graduates who even changed jobs three times in two years.
Err… is that actually a good thing? I’m now worried about the career guidance tips that our professors are providing our fresh graduates. But that’s probably something to blog about at another time.

Finally, Prof Dr Mohamad Rom Tamjis concluded, predictably as follows:
Testimonies and acknowledgements from international peers are very encouraging. For all these, UM truly deservers world recognition.
Sigh. Is this another case of the practice of the art of flattery and bodek at our local premier universities? Is there truth in the allegations (see comment made by an anonymous reader here) whereby the vice chancellor “only nurtures half witted dimwits who will shower praises upon him”.

Is this letter an attempt by the Dean of Engineering to repay the vice chancellor’s role in promoting him?
The promotion exercise is done as if he is the King bestowing datukships. The promotion board consists of his spineless sidekicks who dare not oppose him. Therefore candidates who are not fit to be promoted are promoted… He promotes underachievers like Rom Tamjis who took two attempts to do his Ph.D to become the Dean of Engineering. I am told that the Peer Assessors at Engineering recommended that he be not even shortlisted for promotion.
Are the above allegations true? Are our local premier universities becoming permeated with the culture of unashamed flattery and grandeur all the way from the vice-chancellor down to the lecturers? I’m not an alumni of Universiti Malaya, but I’m hugely saddened by what is happening to our premier local university suffering under a vice-chancellor who has a penchant for grandeur by being occupied with actions such as directing “all faculties to hang his portrait everywhere”.


Anonymous said...

You have to hand to the VC, he got a whole bunch of lackeys working for him. Long live feudalism!!

Hmmm. I notice not a single one of his his "great UM alumni" have come out for him.. I suppose he don't expect any of us stupid proletariat people to notice it.. Ah ya.. We not VC of 169th place University in the world mah. After all we are just common folks who make a living with our intelligence and diligent and don't kiss asses and abuse and take advantage of others. We so stupid..

Anonymous said...

Flattery indeed. The only way that can seal the fate of people like the VC is consistency of results in the ranking and multiple sources of various ranking. What I meant is consistently a year by year result showing that the ranking is dropping shown not only by THES but other sort of organisation as well. I mean he claimed that UM is the 100th in the world, yay, others must have heard about UM, let's ask them. That will be the grave for him and maybe his lackeys, possibly his superior as well for not firing him for unfathomable incompetence.

For the time being it is rather hard to still remove him since he is still pulling all these political stunts to have people to back him up and try to advertise the so called 100th ranking. Also include the fact that, not many people actually realized UM is in the deeper trouble than it can be. A few days ago I just asked my friend's friends who are studying in UM, do they know anything about it. You can guessed it, they were oblivious. Either that or they just dont want to talk about it. Or maybe just a small portion of them bother to know about it. For example they say the VC is bad, but they have no idea, how bad.

Right now they are using one of the infamous politician trick known as, if you tell a lie a thousand times, eventually it must be the truth. This of course doesnt work on the well informed, but it certainly works on the public mass. Leadership at its total meltdown you can call it.

Also one interesting question that is rather scary is, what happened if this dude actually gets to live to tell the tale to our future generations on how well UM did?(Another flattery? But insults to the educated) I am not kidding it could really happened, given the fact that the political arena in Malaysia where unfairness prevails.

Anonymous said...

So if VC get fire, do all those who support him have to go too? Wouldn't that be nice, one sweep...

Anonymous said...

Its not that easy,at least for them, if you fire someone from a high hierachy, you have to find someone to replace that guy. We all know that how incompetent the whole chain is. So if you fire everyone in one go, the whole system could came to an abrupt halt and they cannot afford that. So for a better solution the VC has to be replaced first.
Then slowly people around him must be replaced. Especially those who didnt produce significant work like those mentioned previosly in the blog of publish or perish. You really have to wonder how did the system in UM even sustain these delusional people to this end, where some group of people work like hell others just sit around and continue their delusion of grandeur. To solve this I think they really have to stop letting incapable people of even holding a post. This practise is really widespread in the goverment sector.

Anonymous said...

The whole UM academic community disliked Hashim Yaacob from the day he was appointed. Some concerned person or persons set up a website to expose
him for what he is: a moron with an inflated ego. Please visit to see the abuses and excesses going on at UM. I was told by someone working in the Computer Centre that Hashim is spending thousands of taxpayer's ringgit trying to block the website and catch the person who set up the website. It was blocked for sometime but it is up again. I have pasted an apt description of Hashim Yaacob from the website below in case it is blocked again. After reading this, everyone will know who this egotistical maniac is. He is so afraid that the email will be used to expose him that, all messages even from academics are monitored and filtered before being sent out. Saddam was not deposed but alive and well in UM.

Son of a Rubber Tapper, a Leader of Destruction….

Hashim Yaacob was born to a Malay couple who earned their living by tapping rubber. The couple had high hopes for his son and indeed the boy made it good and became the Vice Chancellor of the top University in the land. The fairy tale ended there because the poor son of a rubber tapper, manipulated, orchestrated and back-stabbed many friends on the way to the position of his dream. He had hoped to be a medical doctor but ended up being a dentist because his HSC results were not good enough for him to enter a Medical School. Hashim Yaacob worked his way up from being a Head of Department, Deputy Dean, Dean, then Deputy Vice-Chancellor and finally Vice-Chancellor. Along the way, he had to face a disciplinary committee on charges of plagiarism and having an affair with a young female staff. Then the Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Syed Hussein Al-Attas whom he despised took him on for daring to stand-up against Syed Hussein’s evil doings. At the same instance, Syed Hussein made him a hero although his Dental Faculty colleagues could smell what this other younger evil man had in store for them. True to his colours Hashim Yaacob turned out to be a bigger evil than Syed Hussein. Hashim Yaccob thrives on showmanship. He also enjoys humiliating his subordinates in public. He is a new clone of an academic sadist. He doesn’t beat around the bush with his loud mouth, scolding and passing unkind remarks non-chalantly to anyone who dares to cross his path. And yet with the Media, he portrays himself as a highly respectable academic scholar, bubbling with visionary magic and flowery poems of the superlatives. In them, he has disguised his ulterior motives succinctly and cleverly. Of course Hashim Yaacob is good at it. He is a Grand Puppeteer of the modern Ramayana. This is sheer hypocrisy of the ultimate extreme kind. When he was appointed Vice Chancellor he proudly went around the campus claiming that the job suited him and was meant for him and nobody else. He claimed that it is ordained that he should be VC. He claimed too that he never had to lobby for the job because our political masters recognized his abilities and potential. The whole campus knew he worked for it day and night. He had secret meetings regularly at the Residence of the Master of 7th Residential College with his gang of “Rasputins” scheming on the best way to bring down the then Vice Chancellor. He played his game well by rubbing shoulders with the right political leaders. These political leaders are also of the breed with personal ulterior motives, just another pack of hungry hyenas. Sadly, this proud son of a rubber tapper had nothing but destruction in mind for University of Malaya.

Compared with previous leaderships of the University, Hashim Yaacob is far and way behind in terms of intellectual ability, sincerity, honesty, humility, vision and work ethics. The comparison can be likened to that of the earth and the sky. He has no real plans, apart from his preaches that Professors are to deliver boring Inaugural Lectures; that everyone must publish in international journals; that each Faculty must organise international conferences; that each Faculty must establish a Parent Teacher Association (PTA). That latest one is one big laugh. Why does a University need to have a PTA? Where in the world is that ever done? What other concrete and meaningful directions has Hashim Yaacob given to the Faculties to achieve excellence? On paper everything looks good. He has Professors as his Deputy VC’s and Deans. What kind of Professors are they? His motto has always been “WORK FOR ME” unlike our beloved Prime Minister who wants the nation to work with him. He appointed them Professors first before appointing them Deans. How were they made Professors? Of course, according to the rules, except where the rules say there must be journal papers, he threw them away for most of them. Why? Because these are his “Rasputins” who day and night are only capable of saying what he wants to hear. Day and night, these “Kangkung Professors” will only say YOU ARE THE A GREATEST ala Mohamad Ali the boxer. Hashim Yaacob thrives on being praised, on being thanked for having helped his “Rasputins”. He cared little for rules, procedures, welfare and hearts of his staff. “I am supreme, I am Vice Chancellor, anyone dares to question me? I am PM’s man”. That was what Syed Hussein used to claim back in his heyday. And yet, he was hauled for smuggling a miserly carpet from Singapore and thrown out unceremoniously. Hashim Yaacob has forgotten that what happened to the “TOAD” (Hashim Yaacob’s nickname for Syed Hussein) could also happen to him. How long can Hashim Yaacob cover his big and smelly elephant’s carcass (bangkai gajah) from our beloved Prime Minister? Hashim Yaacob has to deliver something excellent at the end of his 3 year tenure. At the moment he has nothing to show except a series of misappropriation of funds, illegal spending, wastage, cronyism and nepotism. He has managed to even transfer his own aging wife from UKM to UM so as to be near him. How loving when it is known he has a long list of illicit affairs with younger girls. No output, Hashim Yaacob. Plain simple. He has 3 Deans (who are Professors) who knew nothing about what it takes to manage a Faculty. These Deans (Engineering, Education and Computer Science) are only good at parroting everything Hashim Yaacob wants them to say. Like Hashim Yaacob, the VC, they do not understand the intricacies of the University Semester System, they do not understand the details of the Certified ISO System, they do not understand the government rules of Human Resource Management, they do not understand the government rules of Financial Management. They are Kangkung Professors who do not even have any form of academic track record either in teaching or research, let alone managing a Faculty. They are only good at giving fiery speeches (most of the time out of context and in the wrong place and at the wrong time), hollow fiery speeches filled with empty slogans with no tangible academic content. They are also good at scolding the younger staff for not showing respect to their elders. They are good at showering praises to the VC all the time, endlessly and without fail as if it is ordained that the VC is to be praised day and night even if one is not sincere about it. The DVC’s are aware of it. They are aware that Hashim Yaacob, the VC, has been flouting the rules to his own advantage, to bloat his own belly and yet they dared not raise a single finger. They are aware that Hashim Yaacob despised the ISO certification but had to live with it out of fear of being ridiculed for disregarding an internationally proven management tool. Why? They too are with him and not unlike him. They cannot bear to lose the privileges of a chauffer driven new Perdana. They cannot bear to lose the glamour of the job, the perks that come with it, the connection with the people upstairs that will promise them a better (political) position in the future. They worked hard in rubbing Hashim Yaacob’s arse to be there. They are not about to lose all that for the sake of saving Universiti Malaya. What is there to save in Universiti Malaya. It is all destroyed. Who cares? The students will still choose to come to UM as their first choice. UM is only living on its name. For how long? Who cares? These are the chosen Professors of UM. Long live UM.

posted by unimalaya at 12:31 AM | 0 comments

Golf Afflicted said...

Dear readers,

I will not be editing the above comment by anonymous, although it would appear that it contains many serious unproven and unsubstantiated allegations with regards to the UM VC.

Please read these type of comments with this knowledge in mind to put them in the right context. Not everything written by parties with criticisms are necessarily based on facts.

I would also appreciate it if readers do not use this forum to discuss our higher education policies to vent their personal frustrations which are often emotive and not backed by some form of evidence or facts.

Thanks for reading!

Tony P

Anonymous said...


1) Does the students actually know bad things are brewing in hand?

2) If they do know, were they too afraid to do anything or they are birds of feather flock together?

3) How politically powerful is this guy anyway? I mean in the academia he is high and mighty but with PTA around (where uni is not suppose to even have one) cant the parents do something about it? But in the real world he doesnt have any powers. Unless the parents themselves are with problems too.
At least conduct an independent investigation to put him on the spotlight.

4) If everybody wanted things to change, did anyone did petitions on issues like this? Or were those people treated unfairly and not even given a chance and then blackmailed?