“Stand with us in solidarity to show our dissent to this appointment. You can start by boycotting the senate meeting today as a symbolic gesture of your support.” the Executive Committee of the Colombo University Federation of Teachers Unions wrote to the members of the Colombo University Senate.
We publish below the letter in full;
Dear Senate Member
We write to you to draw your attention to the unprecedented controversy that has been created due to the appointment of the vice chancellor of the University of Colombo. Please take a few minutes of your time to go through this letter and give serious consideration to the issues we raise. If you feel that there is merit in the arguments we present here, please stand with us in solidarity to show our dissent to this appointment and boycotting the senate meeting today as a symbolic gesture of our defiance.
1. University of Colombo is the oldest and most prestigious institution of higher education in this country. In the past it has been led by senior members of the academic community, with great stature and vision such as Prof. Nicholas Atygalla, Prof. B.A. Abeywickerama, Prof. P.P.G.L. Siiwardene, Prof. Stanley Wijesundara, Prof. Nandadasa Kodagoda to name a few, who have commanded the highest respect, both within and outside the university system. To continue this tradition, we believe that whoever is appointed to this post as the Vice Chancellor of the University of Colombo, should be a person of exemplary academic achievements, preferably having achieved the rank of Professor in the university system, and also having a track record of leadership and administrative experience.
2. It has been argued that Dr. Hirimburegama posses the minimal qualifications required for the post. Most of you have sat at interview boards to recruit people to post graduate courses, Departments etc., In these instances we use minimal qualifications to shortlist the candidates for the interview. But do we recruit the person(s) with minimal qualifications to the post when there are highly qualified candidates who can be recruited? Think of situations that you know of, where we have failed to follow this important principle in the past and have recruited persons with minimal qualifications for positions in the academic ranks and how they have performed subsequently? That is the level of stringency we apply even when we recruit a probationary lecturer the lowest academic rank in the University because we wish to maintain high standards. Yet, when it comes to the Vice Chancellor of the University are we prepared to overlook this important principle? Shouldn’t we always strive to get the best candidate?
3. As the new Vice Chancellor happens to be the husband of the Chairperson of the University Grants Commission and former vice chancellor of the University of Colombo it will seriously undermine the autonomy and independence of the University of Colombo. The UGC chairman has already violated the University act by sending all three names recommended by the council to his Excellency the President instead of recommending a single name for appointment which is clearly stated in the act. Further, she has actively canvassed for her husband, to be appointed as the Vice Chancellor of the University of Colombo which is highly unethical and that goes against the norms of decency (see the article that appeared on The Colombotelegraph on the 23rd May, 2013. (https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/last-night-dinner-at-sbs-residence-mr-to-appoint-ugc-chairpersons-husband-as-the-vc-of-university-of-colombo/)).
“Stand with us in solidarity to show our dissent to this appointment. You can start by boycotting the senate meeting today as a symbolic gesture of your support.”
Thank you for taking the time to go through this. We hope you will do the right thing.
Colombo University Federation of Teachers Unions (CUFTA)
List of the Senate Members;