The Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression (AFTE) condemned Monday the suggested amendments to the law regulating university affairs, describing it as a severe violation to the independence of universities and academic freedom.
AFTE mentioned in a statement that the suggested amendments will give the president of the university the right to depose any faculty member if they are charged with “protesting inciting violence, rioting, obstructing the educational process, possession of weapons and explosives, or destroying university property”.
The amendments are awaiting the approval Prime Minister Ibrahim Mehleb.
The association described the amendments as unconstitutional, as they deprive the academic community of its right to decision-making, said the statement. “The laws contradict Article 21 of the 2014 constitution, which entails the state should safeguard the independence of universities.”
“Plus the amendments deprive faculty members of their rights and subject them to arbitrary penalties, amid the absence of a suitable disciplinary system.”
Hany El-Hosseiny, professor at the Faculty of Science at Cairo University and a member of the March 9 Movement for the Independence of Universities, said that the suggested amendments contradict the very laws of justice, as they award the president of the university the role of the disciplinary system.
If these amendments are implemented, El-Hosseiny added, faculty members merely suspected of practicing politics on campus will be dismissed without a trial or proper investigation. “This gives a considerable share of power in the hands of one person. If so, anyone with an opposing opinion with the president can be easily sacked, making an easy way for corruption,” he said.
A similar incident occurred the previous year; students suspected of being involved in political activities were suspended without an investigation, El-Hosseiny said. “Most of the dismissed students were suspended without be informed or being asked to present their case.”
El-Hosseiny said that the amendments come as a part of “restrictive measures” put in place by the government and the security apparatus against universities, such “as surrounding campuses with arms and heavily equipped policemen, aiming to spread agents around students and professors”.
“The state is currently treating university campuses as camps of outside enemies, which needed to be watched and suppressed.”
AFTE added that the amendments are nothing but attempts to maltreat any faculty member with opposing political opinions.
The organisation demands that the suggestions be refuted, and warns against the continuation of targeting students and academics with more restrictive laws.
At the beginning of the month, Cairo University’s President Gaber Nassar announced that politically affiliated student groups and activities will be banned from university campus with the start of the new academic year; he added that student groups that are used for any political or partisan activities will be dissolved.