The name describes the role it is assigned.
But in reality, the Directorate of Students’ Welfare at Buet seems to have nothing to do with the welfare of students.
The DSW hardly took any action against errant BCL leaders and activists for unleashing a reign of terror at the country’s premier engineering university.
It has long been turning a blind eye to the mindless torture and harassment of general students at the Buet halls, thus making the members of the pro-government student body more and more ruthless and desperate.
The DSW director is the member-secretary of the Board of Residence and Discipline, the highest body to supervise and control the residence and discipline of the students. This body is virtually the custodian of all the residential students at the university.
Its role came to the fore after Abrar Fahad, a second-year student, was beaten to death by some Chhatra League leaders at the Sher-e-Bangla Hall of Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology last week.
Many believe the murder stemmed from the culture of impunity prevailing at Buet as in other universities, and the situation would not have become this bad if steps were taken against rule breakers in recent past.
On November 14, 2012, some students vandalised room No 223, 302, 324, 330 and 410 of Nazrul Islam Hall and set fire to the furniture. The hall provost identified six involved in the incident and prepared a report mentioning their names but the DSW took no action.
The CSE department launched a web page called uReporter in 2016 for recording complaints of students. As of October 9, 166 incidents were reported in this platform.
In July, 103 of the complaints were printed and submitted to the university authorities but no visible action was taken, according to a Buet teacher.
A student wrote in this page that Buet teachers or the DSW don’t have the courage to say anything to the political leaders. If DSW was active and took action regarding the complaints, the situation would have been different.
“Abrar killing is an incident which got exposed,” a student told The Daily Star.
“But there are hundreds of incidents of harassment. The DSW knew all those. But as the incumbent DSW director is chosen by the Chhatra League leaders, he never takes any action against them. Rather, he was seen wishing the Buet Chhatra League’s general secretary happy birthday on Facebook,” he said, wishing anonymity.
Another student said hundreds of former Buet students are staying in the halls illegally and everybody knows it. But the Buet administration did nothing to evict them from halls in the last few years.
Khondoker Jamius Sani, president of Buet BCL, completed his graduation in 2018 but he was staying in Ahsanullah Hall till Saturday. There are around 30 others like him in that dormitory.
“I left the room Saturday. I was preparing to leave the hall for the last few days,” he told The Daily Star.
He also said, “Yes, there are some students staying in the hall even after their academic tenure expired but they are very few in number.”
Mohammad Muntasir, a student of electrical and electronic engineering (EEE) department, wrote in Facebook page Buetian that Chhatra league men beat up a student of 17th batch last year but nothing happened.”
He mentioned a number of incidents of harassment by Chhatra League men, saying no action was taken against anyone.
Last year, Chhatra League members beat up a student and handed him over to police for supporting the movement of road safety. The student, Daiyan Nafis Prodhan, was branded a Shibir activist.
A POLITICAL CHOICE
The current director of DSW, Prof Mizanur Rahman, took over three months ago and the Buet Chhatra League leaders had a major role in his selection, said teachers and students.
“There was a time when senior teachers were made the director of DSW. But now it has become a political choice. So how come will he ensure the welfare of general students?” asked a senior teacher of Buet, wishing not to be named.
Many students demonstrating for justice for Abrar said from the first day of the protest, they have been demanding resignation of Mizanur because “he is the main patron of BCL”.
Students and teachers alleged that whenever they raised any issue with the DSW, Mizanur asked them to “manage” the situation.
But Mizanur said, “If anyone can say in front of me that I told of managing the situation. I will resign at that very moment.”
He declined to admit his failure to rein in Chhatra League, saying he took charge only three months back. “It is not my failure. It may be institutional failure.”
Asked whether he would resign, he said, “I wanted to resign but students said, ‘Why should you resign sir? We do not have any complaint against you. You should not resign’.”
Agitating students, however, say Mizanur is lying and they want him to step down.
The DSW chief also said, “At a university teachers’ association meeting, I said sometimes I could not carry out my duty the way I wanted because my power is very limited. I did not get proper cooperation from the VC.
“I also said that as we are passing through critical times, let’s overcome the situation first. After this, if the VC remains in the post, I will resign.”
Mizanur, however, did not raise the issue of non-cooperation before this, while Vice Chancellor Prof Saiful Islam trashed this allegation yesterday.
According to teachers and students, Mizanur is biased towards Chhatra League as he was involved with the organisation during his student life.
As a Chhatra League candidate, he contested hall council elections in 1991 and 1992 when he was a resident student of Nazrul Islam Hall but he could not win. In 1996, he became the general secretary of Shahid Smriti Hall Sangsad.
He is now the adviser to Bangabandhu Parishad’s Buet chapter.
“In student life, anyone can believe in any ideology but after I took charge of DSW, no one can say that I favoured Chhatra League. If anyone can mention one such occasion, I will resign immediately,” he said.
Buet sources say things started to change after Delwar Hossain took the charge of DSW in 2012. Since then, BCL started to get a free rein in the university halls and “ragging” took an ugly turn.
But Delwar does not think so.
“It is not 100 percent true but in some cases I may show some preferences to somebody but at the same time I took harsh action,” he told The Daily Star.
Delwar, who was the DSW director from 2012 to 2016, said he took the charge at a time of crisis. In the beginning, he was in trouble as there was human chain where he was branded as the patron of Jamaat-Shibir.
“But gradually I engaged with students, teachers and guardians and the situation improved,” he said.
He rather blamed his successor Satya Prasad Majumder for not taking any action against the unruly activities. Incumbent director Mizanur too was silent on the activities of rowdy students, he added.
Many students and teachers alleged that Satya Prasad, who took charge in December 2016, was inactive and reluctant to take action against BCL men.
Denying the allegation, Satya Prasad, said, “We regularly visited the halls and monitored the activities of the students. There were some incidents of ragging which lasted for the first two to three weeks after freshmen came to the university.”
He claimed that during his term -- December 2016 to May 2019 -- they took action regarding all the incidents.
“Monitoring and vigilance in halls has stopped since the present DSW director assumed office,” he said.
Both Delwar and Satya Prasad said Mizanur Rahman cannot shrug off his responsibility as the killing took place during his time.
Dr AKM Masud, president of Buet Teachers’ Association, also echoed their view.
Jamilur Reza Chowdhury, president of Buet Alumni, said basically DSW acts as coordinator of the provosts. “The DSW director cannot deny his failure as he is the custodian of the students in halls,” he added.