All three attempts of Fahmi’s attempts to present his historical findings in UM about the student movement have been thwarted by the university administration.
Fahmi was first scheduled to give his Student Power lecture at the UM Cultural Centre‘s dance department on 29 and 30 Oct 2009, then in the Law Faculty on 17 March 2010, and most recently in the Arts and Social Science Faculty on 24 Aug 2010. All three lectures were cancelled.
“I anticipated some problems [getting access to UM] because the history of student movement in the 1960s is a political history of the students’ struggle, and the HEP (Badan Hal Ehwal Pelajar) in UM is known to be strict,” Fahmi told The Nut Graph in a phone interview.
He said his lecture at the Cultural Centre was all set up, but it was cancelled at the last minute.
“They found out who I was and what I going to present. They didn’t want any trouble from the HEP,” he said.
Subsequently, Fahmi tried to get permission from vice-chancellor Prof Datuk Dr Ghauth Jasmon directly.
“A UM graduate helped me to contact his office and we exchanged a few emails with him regarding my request. Verbally he was quite supportive so we made an appointment to meet him.”
However, when they went to the vice-chancellor’s office, they weren’t able to meet Ghauth personally, but were directed to meet someone else from the administration instead.
“The guy [from the administration] asked us to send in a proposal, and a detailed script of my lecture. I told him I wanted to invite some of the former student activists to share their experience, too. So, he also wanted to know who these people were and what they were going to say,” Fahmi said.
Fahmi submitted a detailed outline of his presentation and profiles of former student activists Dr Khong Kim Hoong and Syed Hamid Ali, but the administration officer never replied.
“When we called them up, they said he had been transferred to another department,” Fahmi said.
Students take the lead
After two failed attempts, Fahmi’s Plan C was to let the students initiate the lecture as faculty students are allowed to organise any internal event as long as they obtain the dean’s permission.
“I contacted some UM laws students. They said they were interested [in organising the lecture], and their deputy dean said okay, too,” Fahmi said.
However, the deputy dean made a last-minute about-turn because she was worried that the HEP might interfere. The students were advised to cancel the lecture.
“Luckily I had a back-up plan because I’d already publicised the event. I did it at PJ Live Arts (PJLA), which is close to the UM campus, for two nights instead,” said Fahmi.
He added that only 70 students or so attended his lecture as many did not have transportation.
Fahmi said with the Arts and Social Science Faculty, the dean had initially and verbally agreed to the students’ request before changing his mind on 12 Aug 2010.
Attempts to reach the dean, Prof Dr Mohammad Redzuan Othman, for his comments have proved futile. To an e-mail query, Ghauth said he would investigate the matter before he could comment.
Apart from having difficulties gaining access to UM, Fahmi’s lecture was also recently banned in Universiti Teknologi Mara (UiTM), Shah Alam. One of the UiTM students who initiated the lecture was questioned by his deputy dean.
Despite that, the students pooled together RM100 and rented a hall at Kompleks Belia dan Kebudayaan Negeri Selangor. The event was postponed from 5pm to 6:30pm and 30 students attended the lecture.
“Colonised by university administrators”
“In the 1960s, our university students were free, autonomous and independent. Now they are oppressed and colonised by the university administration.
“Our mahasiswa are now treated like kids. The university administration continuously controls what type of politics or history the students are allowed to be exposed to,” Fahmi said.
After the Universities and University Colleges Act (UUCA) was enacted in 1971, HEPs were set up in institutions of higher learning to replace the role of students’ unions, which used to take care of students affairs, Fahmi said.
Thereafter, the students were no longer free to organise their own activities on campus, he noted. Furthermore, he said, they were made to be financially dependent on the HEP as the UUCA forbids them from collecting money.
“The students were mature enough to manage their own affairs well in the 1960s. They ran their own canteen, students’ council elections and newspapers; bought their own buses to transport students around campus … and could organise political activities on campus. The university administration rarely interfered.
“Instead of going forward, we’re now moving backward,” Fahmi said.
However, Fahmi remains determined to present his Student Power lecture in UM because it was the place the student movement was born.
Apart from PJLA, he has already presented his lecture at the Dewan Negara, the Kuala Lumpur and Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall, and Instant Café’s House of Art and Ideas.
Kumpulan Aktivis Mahasiswa Independen today urged university administrations to allow the Student Power lecture to be presented in universities. The group demanded that universities be more open-minded and democratic in their decision-making process.
Related post: “Mahasiswa jurubicara rakyat”
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