On January 30, 2023, members of the Bangladesh Chhatra League (BCL), the student wing of the ruling party, the Awami League, vandalized the Vice-Chancellor’s office at Chittagong University to protest the university’s decision to not appoint a faculty candidate preferred by the BCL.
At roughly 4:00 PM that afternoon, a group of BCL members entered the VC’s office and vandalized various items, including chairs, tables, dishware, and potted plants. The Daily Star reported that this “creat[ed] panic among the office staffers.” BCL members also commandeered and halted a train shuttle service that runs between the university and the city.
These acts were reportedly in response to the university administration declining to appoint Raihan Ahmed, a former BCL leader, for a lecturer position in the marine science department. BCL claimed that CU had been appointing “anti-government” candidates for faculty positions. (One week earlier, BCL activists assaulted a candidate who they claimed was formerly a member of a rival student group.) Moynul Hasan, vice-president of CU’s BCL chapter, told The Daily Star that “We have started a protest against the appointment of an anti-government candidate as a teacher. We will continue the agitation until the appointment of anti-government activists are canceled.”
Scholars at Risk is concerned by acts of vandalism intended to intimidate or coerce higher education officials in connection with the hiring of academic personnel. While students have a right to freedom of expression, they must exercise that right peacefully and responsibly. Acts of intimidation and coercion intended to influence hiring decisions undermine academic freedom and institutional autonomy.
*SAR identified this incident in data made publicly available by the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED)