Thursday, March 30, 2006

New Universiti Malaya Vice-Chancellor Appointed

Interestingly enough, I was just mentioning my surprise that the New Straits Times (NST) didn't get the scoop on the shortlisted candidates for the vice-chancellor position at the Universiti Malaya (UM), when the Star published the shortlist. The NST is usually quite in-touch with these matters at the Ministry of Higher Education. Well, they are indeed, for the NST is the first to announce the appointment of Dr Sharifah Hapsah, who will be the first woman vice-chancellor of a local public university.

A brief overview of Dr Sharifah Hapsah's career is given in the NST:
... she is currently the chief executive officer of the National Accreditation Board (LAN). She has worked for more than 20 years with the National Council of Women’s Organisations (NCWO) and has spoken on sexual harassment, polygamy, Islamic family law and rape.

Dr Sharifah Hapsah was a medical studies professor at Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia from 1975 to 2002. She then joined the Education Ministry and was tasked with looking into quality assurance at public institutions of higher learning. On Jan 1, she was made LAN’s chief executive officer.

In education, Dr Sharifah Hapsah’s name is synonymous with the Malaysian Qualification Agency (MQA). The proposed MQA Act, to be tabled in Parliament in June, will replace the LAN Act. Once in force, the MQA will ensure that universities and private colleges adopt the quality and standards outlined under the Malaysian Qualifications Framework (MQF).
For those interested in the MQA, I've written a little about it here.

I'm not one who will prejudge her appointment for I hope that she will be able to prove herself worthy of the position given to her. I am however, disappointed that there was no thorough and credible search exercise conducted to appoint the most outstanding candidate to lead the premier university in the country. The shortlist of candidates appears to be practically a recycled shortlist for any vacant vice-chancellor position.

Interestingly enough, some of the well-known defenders of the soon-to-be former vice-chancellor of Universiti Malaya like the Dean of Electrical Engineering Department, Professor Dr Mohamad Rom Tamjis told a press conference that they "could not understand this".
If they said he (Prof Hashim) had brought much change and succeeded in raising UM’s standard, then his tenure should be extended. “When he became VC, we drew up a strategic plan for the university. Three years is definitely not enough to follow through on it.”
The problem, dear Professor Dr Mohamad Rom Tamjis, is that we are living in a polite society. So even if the soon-to-be former vice-chancellor is the weakest and worst VC in the entire country (an honour which I actually don't think he deserves), everyone from the Minister to the successor will still "praise" his legacy to the high heavens. For we are all skilled in the art of flattery.

After all, Professor Dr Mohamad Rom Tamjis should not appear so surprised, for he is a masterful exponent of such arts as seen here and here. Maybe he is just afraid that with his "mentor" replaced, his position as the Dean of one of the most important faculties of the university may be threatened? After all, Kian Ming did mention before that his resume certainly doesn't befit that of a Dean of a premier university.

Fellow colleague even argued that the UM Board of Directors "should have supported the soon-to-be former VC." Well, obviously even the Board doesn't think him deserving such support. The Chairperson of the Board, Arshad Ayub, is of the opinion that the “form of governance has a direct bearing on academic standards”.
While focusing on UM standards, he urged all universities to be introspective in order to arrest the decline and emphasised the need for faculty staff to rethink the values with which students are being imbued.

“Are we treating them (students) in a fair manner and in line with their rights as enshrined in our constitution? Are they allowed to express themselves freely and are they permitted to vote according to their conscience?” he asked... [he] blamed the current drop in overall varsity standards on bad administrative calls involving discriminatory practices and unfair treatment.
In addition, in a veiled reference to governance and transparency in academic promotions at the university, Arshad asked:
Are we providing a working environment where academic integrity is paramount and the path to professional satisfaction and reward? Or are we creating an environment based on feudalistic practices that can bring about nothing but dissatisfaction?

“Are promotions and appointments based on merit? Are we ensuring that the most qualified academics are selected for promotion and to lead our departments, faculties and research institutions, regardless of their ethnic background? Or are we undermining morale by appointing academics based on factors other than merit?”
Obviously, Professor Dr Mohamad Rom Tamjis' promotion as the Dean of the Electrical Engineering faculty by the soon-to-be former vice-chancellor was done with the greatest of transparency and integrity.

The out-going vice-chancellor, in probably his last public appearance as the vice-chancellor of the university, was also in the papers yesterday, giving a talk about the Philosophy of Marriage, asked all not to follow Hang Tuah's example in love and marriage.
“For those who are married, there is none closer to you than your spouse, except for your parents. This is the priority in your life... Don’t be like Hang Tuah in romance, who deceived Tun Teja into falling in love with him, only to betray her. However, one should be like him as a warrior.”
Well, as someone has highlighted a few times on this blog, he had his wife transferred from Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia where she was an Assistant Professor for many many years, to Universiti Malaya, where she was promoted to full professorship within 3 years. How tryly touching.


Anonymous said... the premier university uses someone being rejected by lesser rank university! It's another history other than the being the first female chancellor!!

I was kind of thinking about this sentence:

"The move is consistent with the drive by the administration of Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi to put the best person in a job, regardless of gender"

Why not "...regardless of race"?????

I guess bolehland will always be bolehland. Just hope that our bolehland wont be garbageland in the future. :P


Anonymous said...

good luck to UM and their new VC.

Anonymous said...

For a good VC, one term of 3 years is not enough.

For a lousy VC, one term of 3 years is 3 years too much!

Mohamad Rom Tamjis, a man with numerous wives, is obviously anxious over his new boss who has spoken on sexual harassment, polygamy, etc.

Anonymous said...

If the selection is based on merits, that will be a good thing for UM. If it is just for the sake of championing gender equality or having a woman representation, my question will be, "what's next?". Representation based on ethnicity, states etc (ala BN component parties)?

Anonymous said...

i give up. it really sucks to had a glimmer of a hope that our education system just might change, and then bang, we're back to nothing. i dont know about you guys, but im starting to loose hope on the governments ability to bring us forward.

Anonymous said...

Guys... read the papers (NST 31/3, P23)... looks like the announcement yesterday was 'jumping the gun'. One of the DVC's is acting-VC for a month.

Anonymous said...

you got to admit it..rom tarjis is a very loyal person. Difficult to get such person, whose loyalty is beyond question. Hashim shd be very pleased of the loyalty of all his kingsmen...

as far as um is concerned, i think i hv given up hope. Irrespective who is being chosen, its the case of different scoops from the same pot!

At least we all can cherish memories of how great UM was once..that is historically accurate and cannot be denied.