Statement of Facts leading up to the Protests against the BRAC University Administration in August 2017

Following is the statement which was submitted to the Inquiry Committee detailing the facts from 12th February 2017 to 30th July 2017; ultimately leading to the protests against the BRAC University Administration, based on which the Inquiry Committee recommended inter alia the Registrar’s resignation and that the confirmation of my lectureship should be based solely on the assessment of my academic research, teaching evaluation, service to university, community service, and self-development:

N.B.: Every statement in the following paragraphs is corroborated by concrete evidence which will be provided as and when necessary.

1. I had participated in the Certificate in Higher Education Teaching (CHET) Programme conducted by the Professional Development Centre (PDC), BRAC University in Fall 2016. The modules that were provided to the participants at the beginning of the course in Fall 2016 enunciated the requirements for the completion of the course; which were attending 12 sessions, doing all the homework, organising the requisite class observations, and writing an essay. As per the curriculum, we had completed all the requirements except the essay and a couple of class observations by the end of Fall 2016. The essay was due to be submitted in Spring 2017 and a couple of class observations were also supposed to be organised in the same term.

2. Thereafter, on 12th January 2017, the PDC organised a Discussion Session at the GDLN Centre, BRAC University for the faculty members who were participating in the CHET Programme. At the session, it was announced that a new requirement of submitting all the lesson plans of a particular course is being added to the list of requirements to complete the CHET Programme. Thereafter, during the question-answer session, I raised the question that the sudden addition of a new requirement is quite burdensome especially for a faculty member who teaches four different courses, especially those faculty members who individually teach each of the courses (i.e. courses which are only taught by one particular faculty member). This question led to a quite an academic exchange of statements on the issue between me and Lady Syeda Sarwat Abed, Director of BRAC Institute of Languages (BIL). Thereafter, the session ended.

3. Then, on 26th January 2017, I received an email from Mr Muhammad Foysal Mubarak, Lecturer, PDC to ‘ensure my presence’ at a meeting regarding the CHET requirements for Spring 2017. The wording of the email was unquestionably rude and was a precursor to the hostility that was shown towards me at the subsequent meetings. The meeting was attended by Lady Syeda Sarwat Abed; Dr Ansar Ahmed, the new Director of PDC; Ms Sabrina Syed, Lecturer, PDC; and Mr Muhammad Foysal Mubarak and it was held in the small conference room at BIL. At the meeting, initially, the participants were not clear as to why they had called me. Thereafter, upon clarification by Ms Sabrina Syed, I respectfully raised the issue that retrospectively adding new requirements to the CHET Programme was unfair especially considering the fact that the Programme was close to completion for all of us and I stated that on principle grounds I would not do the lesson plans. In reply, I was told that “then, you can’t work here,” and a veiled threat was issued that I would not be confirmed for arguing for the issue, i.e. the fairness of the matter and legitimate expectation. An excerpt of the conversation is as follows:

“Lady Abed: Farhaan, how long have you been here?

Farhaan Ahmed: I have been connected with BRAC or–

Lady Abed: –No, no, no–

Farhaan Ahmed: –As a Lecturer? 7, 8 months.  But I was a student here

Lady Abed:–I know–

Farhaan Ahmed: –and I also worked as a resear–

Lady Abed: You are still not confirmed? You are not confirmed?

Farhaan Ahmed: No.”

4. I did not in any way disrespect Lady Syeda Sarwat Abed nor did I behave in a manner that was unprofessional. Questioning a decision or a measure is undoubtedly within the premise of Academic Freedom as espoused in the Faculty Code of Conduct.

5. On 20th March 2017, I attended a second meeting with the PDC in the Conference Room on the 5th Floor of UB1. At that meeting, the PDC was represented by Dr Ansar Ahmed, Ms Sabrina Syed, and Mr Muhammad Foysal Mubarak. The meeting was also attended by Prof K Shamsuddin Mahmood, Dean, School of Law and Ms Khandker Tasnuva Haque, Lecturer, School of Law. At the meeting, I reiterated the questionable nature of the imposition of the new requirements and my fellow colleague Ms Khandker Tasnuva Haque also raised the same issue since she started the CHET Programme in Summer 2016 and even after two and a half terms the Programme had still not ended due to the addition of new requirements. In the meeting, we were shouted at and called ‘thick headed’, which cannot be considered professional behaviour in any civilised environment.

6. Thereafter, upon being given an ultimatum, we agreed to fulfil the new requirements and we accordingly fulfilled them. Even though, on the day of the awarding the certificates for the CHET Programme I had submitted more, if not equal, number of lesson plans as Ms Tasnuva Haque, I was not awarded the certificate but Ms Tasnuva Haque was, and furthermore, I was told by many participants that my name was on the awardees list but PDC did not communicate with me regarding the matter. Subsequently, after completion of the requirement and upon not being awarded the certificate, I emailed the PDC a couple of times; on 30th April 2017 and 30th May 2017, regarding the completion of all the requirements and hence the CHET Programme but both my emails were ignored.

7. In the meantime, the moot court team of the School of Law that I had been coaching qualified for the International Rounds of the Price Media Law Moot Court Competition 2016-17, which was held at the University of Oxford, United Kingdom. We flew to London on 1st April 2017 and the competition began on 3rd April 2017.

8. To apply for the visa to travel to the United Kingdom I required a No Objection Certificate (NOC) as is the case for all employees. My NOC was unnecessarily delayed even though I had applied for it well ahead of time. Subsequently, on the morning of 22nd February 2017, a day before the date of our visa application submission, I was informed by my Dean that I would have to draft an apology and email it to Lady Syeda Sarwat Abed in order to be issued the NOC. I accordingly drafted an apology and emailed it to Lady Syeda Sarwat Abed and soon after in the afternoon of the same day the NOC was duly issued and delivered to the School of Law.

9. My ordeal was far from over, on 28th March 2017, a mere four days before the moot court team was scheduled to leave for the competition, in reply to my email seeking an extension of the deadline for the submission of the lesson plans, Dr Ansar Ahmed informed me that I cannot travel with the team as their coach since as per the University’s policy I am ineligible to use the University’s fund for such a purpose since I am a non-confirmed faculty, even though the Vice Chancellor had personally approved the entire team’s budget for the travel, including mine. There was no such University policy in reality that could legitimately bar me from coaching a moot court team. Thereafter, I was forced to email the Registrar regarding the matter explaining the situation and the appropriate rules and regulations regarding the matter. Subsequently, on the evening of 28th March 2017, I was requested to accompany Ms Shadia Alam, Senior Manager, Human Resource Department (HRD) to meet Dr Ansar Ahmed. At the meeting I was told that he could stop my travel if he wanted to but he would not do so, the statement seemed quite peculiar to me.

10. To make it worse, on the evening of Thursday, 30th March 2017, a mere two days before our flight to London, I received a call informing me that the Registrar of BRAC University had called Dr Tureen Afroz, Chairperson, Faculty of Law, East West University to ask her whether she would be interested to travel with the University’s moot court team to Oxford. Needless to say that she did not accept the offer. I could not believe what I had heard; after spending more than six months in training the team through the qualifying rounds and investing considerable effort, I felt betrayed to the highest degree. I did not know for sure whether I would be accompanying the team until after I had boarded the flight to London. This could not be anything other than an act based on pure malice. I am an experienced Mooter and coach, I was trained by Dr Tureen Afroz herself, I am confident that there was no doubt in my capabilities as a coach a mere two days before the competition yet such capricious actions were undertaken against me and in turn against the interests of the University. The Registrar, later in a meeting stated on that, he did call Dr Afroz to request her to travel with the team.

11. On 10th July 2017, I had completed one year as a Lecturer at the School of Law. Generally, the HRD emails the relevant forms to faculty members two to three weeks ahead of the completion of their one year of service and requests them to submit the completed forms as soon as possible. At no point in time had I received such an email from the HRD, I had to request a copy of the forms from one of my colleagues who had recently been confirmed and had received the email from the HRD to apply for confirmation. On 18th July 2017, I submitted the requisite forms for confirmation of my service to the HRD since I had successfully completed one year of service at BRAC University. Thereafter, on Wednesday, 26th July 2017, all of a sudden I was issued with a Letter stating that my period of probation would be extended till 31st August 2017 and thereafter my position at BRAC University will be terminated. No reason was provided as to why I had not been confirmed as a lecturer or why the university administration had all of a sudden decided to terminate my employment. The fact that Lady Syeda Sarwat Abed’s displeasure is the actual and only reason for my termination was clearly been stated to me by Mr Monojit Kumar Ojha, Director of Finance, BRAC University and Maj Gen Muhammad Sahool Afzal (retd), Registrar, BRAC University during a meeting on the evening of 26th July 2017. In the aforesaid meeting, I was again demeaned and cursed by the Director of Finance. He also accused me of sending too many emails and stated the fact that he did not reply to any of my emails because I am a ‘byaddop’. Such statements are clearly unprofessional and founded on bias.

12. Subsequently, on the morning of Thursday, 27th July 2017, I submitted a Grievance Letter to Prof Syed Saad Andaleeb, Vice Chancellor, BRAC University as per the Code of Conduct for Faculty, enunciating the aforementioned abuses and mistreatments along with conclusive evidence to prove each of them.

13. On the very next working day, i.e. Sunday, 30th July 2017, rather than forming the Faculty Grievance Resolution Committee (FGRC) as per the Code of Conduct for Faculty which the Vice Chancellor is duty bound to do, there was an attempt to immediately terminate my employment. At 2:31 pm, I received a message from Ms Shadia Alam of HRD which stated that “Dear Farhaan, Registrar sir has asked you to come and meet him now. Regards Shadia.” Thereafter, I received a second message stating that “Dear Farhaan, Since you are taking class please come and meet Registrar sir after your class is over today. Regards Shadia.”

14. Since I was taking an exam that day my class ended earlier and at around 3:10 pm, I went to meet the Registrar and he told me to go to the HRD. As per his instruction, I went to the HRD where Ms Momena Begum, Senior HR Officer, HRD along with Mr Mahi Uddin, Assistant Registrar and Mr Jabed Rasel, Senior Officer, Office of Co-curricular Activities (OCA) met with me in the room in front the HRD. Ms Momena Begum tried to hand over a cheque and certain documents, among them one stated that I was to be terminated from BRAC University immediately. Since I had formally submitted a Grievance Letter against the Administration, I refused to accept the documents until the Faculty Grievance Resolution Committee (FGRC) gave its final decision in accordance with due process. Thereafter, the three of them told me that even if I do not accept the documents I must hand over my BRAC University ID card. I again refused to do so based on the pending investigation based on my Grievance Letter against the University Administration. Thereafter, The Registrar came into the room, cursed me and tried to forcefully take away my ID card. The Registrar made Mr Mahi Uddin and Mr Javed Rasel hold each of my arms and then again tried to forcefully take away my ID card. While I was being assaulted, the Registrar pulled at my ID card with such great force that it tore away the pocket of the Panjabi that I was wearing and I was held down so violently that I had bruises all over my arms and even my chest. At one point, the Registrar left the room ordering his staff to implement his directive. I kept resisting their assault and when I broke free of their clutches I tried to leave the room but they refused to let me out and locked the door. At that point in time few of the guards and the floor-in-charge also tried to forcefully hold me back. I kept shouting and trying to get out of the room. After quite some time of shouting and resisting the assault, I managed to get out of the room when a few students saw what was happening to me from outside the door. When I came out of the room I found that the door of the 5th floor of UB 6 (Registrar’s floor) was locked. I kept shouting to call for attention and continued to resist attempts to hold me back. Finally, after considerable effort, I managed to make my way to the ground floor with my torn Panjabi and bruises on my arms and chest. Upon reaching the ground floor I immediately called the Officer in Charge of Banani Police Station and they asked me to come to them to file a complaint.

15. Soon after that, I went straight to my office at the School of Law to collect my belongings and that is when the students saw my helpless condition. Upon seeing me, their faculty member and a School of Law alumnus, in such a harrowing condition the students immediately moved to protest the assault at the ground floor of UB 6. The students initially demanded that the Registrar must apologise for such abusive treatment of a faculty member and that the University Administration must amend the gross unfairness of my wrongful termination which lacked any professional ground or basis. Thereafter, the students continued to protest demanding for justice for almost an entire week.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s