The latest amendment to the Universities and University Colleges Act (UUCA) will apart from allowing students to have political affliations, pave the way for them to enrich their attributes and facilitate their personal development.
STUDENTS can be actively involved in politics off campus and in peaceful rallies without worrying about getting into trouble with their universities, in the weeks ahead.
Paving the way for this change of landscape is the latest amendment to the Universities and University Colleges Act (UUCA) which the ministry said was an attempt to add more elements of natural justice to the Act known by its Malay acronym AUKU.
The amendment was passed by the Dewan Rakyat via a voice vote on April 19, and will be tabled at the Dewan Negara on May 10.
Over the last four decades, students have not been able to take part in politics or rallies and faced a multitude of actions such as suspensions or even expulsions.
Higher Education Minister Datuk Seri Mohamed Khaled Nordin had agreed that previously, public university officials had to carefully scrutinise and check if their students were involved whenever there were rallies.
However, there is a “caveat” though. All students are expected to be mature enough to understand that they would be subjected to natural legal process if they were to commit offences such as acts of crime, sedition and defamation, among others.
A Higher Education Ministry official explained at a briefing to editors last Wednesday, that it was meant to clear the air over amendments to the UUCA which is often seen as a touchy issue.
The official confirmed that the university will then naturally have the power to act upon the students who were found guilty by the courts.
However, the officials said, even those who are holding positions as student leaders in the university could stand as a candidate in either a state or parliamentary election.
“As elected candidates, they can continue as students at public universities so long as they do not campaign or bring their politics to campus. This applies to all irrespective of political affliations.
“They must remain neutral on campus,” he added.
“They will not get into trouble as long as they keep politics out of campus. We will not expect the university to haul them up just because they have returned from outside the campus wearing a shirt with a certain political party’s symbol,’’ said the official.
The official explained that although the amendments were made to the Act, Section 15 had always been the most contentious as it prevented students from taking part in the activities of political parties off and on campus.
Although students can now be involved in politics, the official said that this did not mean they could do as they as liked as action could still be taken against them if they were to break the law such as destroying public property.
As a result of the amendments to the Act, students will also have to sign a contract that will include the do’s and don’ts on campus, when they return to public universities in September.
“The contract will be drawn up by the individual universities but the ministry will ensure there is general uniformity,” said Mohamed Khaled.
The ministry official said the contract would help universities monitor the activities of students on campus.
“Students should not fear this contract as it is a mechanism to monitor the activities of students as well as the universities.
“The breach of contract can go both ways. So, the interest of both sides will be safeguarded,” he said.
In an immediate response, Universiti Teknologi Malaysia (UTM) vice-chancellor Prof Datuk Dr Zaini Ujang said the UTM’s legal adviser was drawing up its contract.
“It should be finalised once the Act is gazetted,” he said, adding that all vice-chancellors were briefed on the amended UUCA.
Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia vice-chancellor Prof Tan Sri Dr Sharifah Hapsah Syed Hasan Shahabudin who is curretnly in Hanoi, Vietnam, said the university’s officials were waiting for more information from the ministry’s legal officer.
“It seems that it may involve an undertaking on major matters such as not forming political branches in the university.
“Action on other matters such as wearing party badges or carrying party paraphernalia will be left for each university to decide,” she added..
In the past, there had been clashes between student affairs divisions of the universities and the students over rigid adherence to outdated campus regulations.
Mohamed Khaled said each public university would also set up a students’ complaints committee to listen and act on grouses.
“This is the first time such a channel has been created. The committee will be chaired by the university’s vice-chancellor and will meet whenever there are complaints by students,” he added.
By CHELSEA L.Y. NG and KAREN CHAPMAN firstname.lastname@example.org
Source: The STAR Online Home Education Sunday May 6, 2012