Despite criticisms, USM will go ahead and allow non-academic staff to nominate, vote for deans

Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) has defended its unprecedented move to include non-academics in the nomination and voting process for deans, adding the decision was above board and done in the name of democracy and progress.

Its nomination committee chairman, Dr Musa Ali, told Twentytwo13 this move would ensure that non-academics would have a voice in the nomination and voting process for the selection of deans for the 2022-2024 term.

Insisting that the initiative was in fact an idea mooted several years ago by academic members, Musa said the role of deans and heads of departments was not just about managing scholars.

“They also need to look into matters concerning finance, as well as non-academic members of a department,” Musa said.

“The world is progressing, and we want to ensure there is democracy and participation at all levels. A department or school does not only comprise the academic staff,” he said.

Musa, who is also USM’s registrar, pointed out that the involvement of non-academics in the voting of deans could also be seen in higher institutions of learning in Indonesia.

He added although this was the first time the university was getting non-academics involved, academic members should not worry as the appointments would not be based on popular votes alone, nor would a non-academic be selected as a dean.

“Only 30 per cent of non-academics from a particular school will be involved in the nomination. The remaining 70 per cent comprise academics,” he said.

“It should be noted that popular votes alone will not guarantee that one is able to secure the top position in a department.”

Musa said voting was just one of the criteria for the election process; the other being a profiling exercise.

“If a candidate makes it to the top three list after voting, we will then have to carry out a 360-degree profiling process. There are seven competency standards to be met, including the candidate’s communication, strategic thinking, networking, problem-solving and service delivery skills.

“The candidate will then have to do a presentation, and only after that, will the appointment process be finalised.”

Musa was responding to Twentytwo13’s report yesterday, quoting several USM professors who said the inclusion of non-academics would make the nomination and election processes “unconstitutional”.

The professors also said the move would result in the entire nomination and voting processes being considered null and void.

Musa insisted the move was constitutional and above board and that the university would go ahead with its plans, come July 13.

“We have explained the matter to the administrators of the schools in the university. While I understand it is not the fault of the academics in raising their concerns, I hope they will accept the university’s decision to include non-academics in the process with an open heart,” he said.

“Academic members often speak about academic freedom. This (the inclusion of non-academics in the process) will ensure there is democracy. They should be more open about this initiative as non-academics are also part of their team (in a centre or department).”

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