‘Gerak’ hails USM’s move to exclude non-academics in dean selection process

The Malaysian Academic Movement (Gerak) has hailed the latest decision by Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) to bar its non-academic staff from nominating and voting for deans, saying it is in line with the varsity’s constitution.

The university, had on Sunday, scrapped plans to include non-academics in its nomination and voting procedures for the selection of deans for the 2022-2024 term following pressure from academicians. The nomination process started this morning via the university’s e-Dekan online system.

Gerak, however, admitted there were some flaws in USM’s ‘bottom-up’ approach in the selection process.

“In 2011, USM was one of the public universities that initiated the nomination and voting of deans involving academic staff through the bottom-up approach,” said Gerak, in a statement to Twentytwo13.

“Such a process is an important mechanism to ensure issues related to academic interest and freedom are voiced out, discussed and defended.”

Gerak said Section 29(4) of USM’s Constitution was to introduce an element of democracy, instead of leaving the nomination and selection of a dean entirely at the discretion of the university’s vice-chancellor.

“The idea is to increase transparency and accountability in the selection process. However, Gerak acknowledges that there are several weaknesses in the process.

“Firstly, the university hardly announces the nomination and voting decisions made by the academics from a particular school. This shows a less than transparent administration in the nomination and voting processes.”

“Secondly, the vice-chancellor is not obligated to elect the head of department, despite the decision by the majority. This will create doubt among the academic staff, who often question the accountability of the enforcer in such a process.”

Gerak said such flaws would impact negatively on the culture of academic freedom in USM.

“As such, Gerak is of the opinion that the practice in USM, its democratic procedure, and nomination and voting processes of the deans, must be fine-tuned in accordance with the principles of academic freedom.”

“Our statement is based on the principles of defending the freedom of academics. Gerak supports the continued work by the university’s Academic and Administrative Staff Association to uphold USM’s Constitution in a bid to improve the democratic processes in institutions of higher learning in the country.”