Published On: March 19, 2023 08:35 AM NPT By: Jagadish Paudel
The Free Student Union (FSU) election is taking place on Sunday in all constituents and affiliated campuses of Tribhuvan University (TU). The FSU usually advocates for student rights, academic growth, democracy, and freedom. However, looking over the past activities of the FSU and its leaders, there are things that students need to consider before casting their votes.
Changed roles of student leaders
In the past, the FSU played a crucial role in demanding political change and overthrowing the monarchy. However, the role they played during the Panchayat regime is no more required at this moment. They need not go onto the streets to burn tires as puppets of their mother political party. Since we have already changed the political system, the FSU also should change its direction and activities. Instead, they need to focus their activities on students' welfare and academic growth. The FSU should lead its efforts in discussing and focusing its activities on developing innovative and advanced curricula, improving the examination system, building infrastructure, organizing conferences and workshops, appealing for fast and less complicated administrative services, making technology-friendly classrooms and administration, and equipping libraries (e-library, physical building with books and computers, etc.). We often hear that student leaders usually raise such issues during their election time and when they need students' support to go for protests and to show mass. But these agendas are put aside once they are elected for the FSU. So, there is a need for continuous advocacy on the issues.
The FSU should center its activities on innovative and advanced curricula, improving the examination system, building infrastructure, organizing conferences and workshops, appealing for fast and less complicated administrative services, making technology-friendly classrooms and administration, and equipping libraries. Student leaders often make these promises during the election period but forget about them once they are elected. It is crucial to ensure that the FSU focuses on these key areas to benefit students and ensure their academic progress.
One of the essential things that student leaders should change is their outlook and general perception about them. Leaders are often known, if not all, as scary and vulgar persons to the campus chief, department chief, administrative staff, and even the general students. When student leaders' demands are not fulfilled, they often break campus property, and sometimes they attack the campus chief, department head, and administrative staff, too. The student leaders are usually found on campus premises for padlocking, bargaining, and threatening rather than for dealing with academic concerns and issues. Looking at their activities over the years, it seems like their duty is to give trouble to the administrators, and it becomes even more adverse when the institution head comes from a different ideology. They usually blindly go against the head whose belief does not align with the student leaders. Hence, they need to change the perception about them as troublemakers to helpers to the campus administration and authorities.
Additionally, student leaders should not be troublemakers in the institution. The strange thing is that student leaders usually attempt to influence administration unnecessarily while hiring teachers and administrative staff in the institution. Unnecessary encroachment is not their job; this is not their duty and responsibility. It is good to have students’ representatives while selecting teachers. However, it is ironic for institutions when they unreasonably try to favor hiring teachers and administrative staff who align with their ideology. From my observation, visiting various campuses of TU from Mechi to Mahakali, student union leaders are troublemakers to the campus administration. It is good to raise issues that are directly related to students’ concerns and problems. However, creating an obstacle in every aspect is utterly wrong and is never good for the institution and the students. It is high time for campus students to select their leaders wisely, not being political partisans or blind supporters of their student organizations. Students should choose leaders who prioritize their welfare and academic progress.
Character of ideal student leaders
First, the leaders should be in good ethical standing themselves. Do they do their own work themselves or hire others to do their work, for instance, to write their assignments and thesis? Are they academically in good standing themselves? Do they promote gangsterism and bullying on campus? If the leaders are not ethical, how can we believe they will work for students' rights and welfare? Decency and politeness are other vital virtues of a leader. Are they decent or scary for the institution head or administrative staff? Clear vision and plans are other characteristics that student leaders should have. Do they have a clear vision and plans for addressing students' academic issues and concerns, or do they have just lofty ideas? Most often, we hear that student leaders, as our politicians are good at talking loft ideas and blaming their fellow student unions; they just blame fellow student unions, the campus chief, the head of the department, and administrative staff. Good leaders spend their time talking about their planning, visions, creative ideas, and future activities they want to do; instead of blaming and scolding their fellow student unions. Good leaders are always available for students. They play a significant role in settling conflict issues at campus.
The current student leaders are tomorrow's leaders of the country. So, while choosing FSU, the students should choose their leaders with care; they should not vote for the students who involve themselves in unethical activities and promote gangsterism and vandalism on campuses. If students choose the wrong leaders now, we will likely produce the wrong leaders for the nation in the future. Then our future will be even more disastrous than the present.
The student leaders can make FSU a platform for academic discussion and sharing. The FSU leaders themselves can do several activities for students' academic growth. For example, FSU leaders can conduct either virtual or in-person speaker series events on various academic issues, inviting scholars, entrepreneurs, and CEOs from around the world. They can also invite upper-level students, e.g., Master, MPhil, and Ph.D. students, to discuss their work, struggles, successes, and strategies they embrace to succeed in their academic life. However, the activities should be run sustainably, not just to showcase a single time.
Furthermore, student leaders can coordinate for collecting resources for students. The leaders' work should be directed at empowering students in terms of resources and opportunities. The main point is that they should be driven to provide better platforms and learning opportunities.
Students need much additional support besides classroom teaching. They can create a learning environment through peers where student leaders can work as coordinators. Student leaders can also create virtual platforms to support and discuss academic issues.
One of the essential things the student leaders can initiate and force their institution is to make provision for a learning management system—an electronic platform from where students access and see all academic activities, assignments, courses, grades, fees, resources (library) institution's information, and notices. Through it, students can access the syllabus, reading materials, and assignment sheets, see their fees due to pay, access an unofficial mark sheet, etc. To date, students have to wait a long time to see their unofficial mark sheet. So, for such work, the FSU leaders can pressure the institution head and authorities for its provision on their campus.
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