University academics yesterday vehemently condemned ragging in Sri Lankan universities and blamed higher education minister S. B. Dissanayake for not consulting teachers when taking decisions on university affairs,
President of the Federation of University Teachers Associations (FUTA) Dr. Nirmal Ranjith Devasiri said that their members were committed to working towards the elimination of ragging.
"Our members have always condemned ragging and have attempted to do everything within their capacity to mitigate and to help eradicate it," he said in a statement last night.
Dr. Devasiri denied Minister S. B. Dissanayake’s claim that some sections of university teachers were supportive of ragging in the Peradeniya University.
Dr. Devasiri said that FUTA noted that the ‘leadership programme’ initiated by the higher education ministry without consulting academics, was also a complete flop as far as bringing ragging to a close was concerned.
"It is clear that the academic community, the university authorities and the government alone cannot solve this and unless the students themselves make a conscientious decision to do so this problem will continue to plague the university system," Dr. Devasiri said.
The senior academic said that FUTA urgently and strongly requested all student unions, the Inter University Students Federation (IUSF)
Despite Minister S. B. Dissanayake’s claim that ragging was present only in IUSF dominated universities, a statement by the Arts Faculty Teachers’ Association, University of Colombo, indicated that ragging was prevalent in other universities as well, Dr. Devasiri said.
The statement said: "The FUTA also vehemently condemns the role of the government and the Minister of Higher Education regarding two related trends with regard to its handling of university and academics matters. One, the authoritarian manner in which action is taken with regard to administrative matters, namely the imposition of ultra-expensive private security firms on universities, militarization of universities, politicization of universities, infringement of university autonomy, excessive use of force in curbing the democratic right of the students to protest and suppression of student protests under the guise of adopting measures to prevent ragging; Secondly, obscuring all other relevant issues plaguing the university system such as, the meager funds allocated for higher education, non-consultative process adopted in higher education reforms, inadequate funding to carryout research, salary and benefits related commitments made to the academic community, by only focusing on ragging. The Academic community is very disturbed by these alarming trends and urges the government and the Minister of Higher Education to act prudently in dealing with all issues that are undermining the higher educational system in the country today."