In deciding to investigate an allegation of racism against one of its associate professors, Universiti Malaya gives itself an opportunity to prove to the Malaysian public that it upholds a high standard of decency.
We await the findings of the five-member investigation panel and the university’s follow-up action.
However, one wonders whether Universiti Malaya would have bothered to look into the matter if it hadn’t received a directive from the Education Ministry. Indeed, it did not have to wait for the directive. It should have maintained an alertness to issues that might affect its reputation and it should act speedily.
The allegation came in a Facebook posting by a student. The article, titled “Voice of an Indian student”, has gone viral.
The student said the lecturer, in reprimanding her and another student, dispensed with the courtesy of calling them by their names and instead called them “India”.
Here, in brief, is the story according to the Facebook posting:
The lecturer said, “India, I don’t like Indians sitting together.”
After making a disparaging remark about a private university, she added: “When Indians sit together, they will plagiarise and copy one another’s assignments. I recognise Indian traits.”
The abuse continued. She pointed to the student and her friend and told them to sit separately, saying, “I will ensure that the two of you will not be in the same group for your assignment. I know what Indians are like.”
Then she insulted the other Indian students in the class. She made no excuses for her behaviour and said she did not mind if no one promoted Universiti Malaya because she preferred to teach smaller classes.
So, is this what you learn in a top Malaysian university – racism, intolerance, rudeness, insensitivity?
When asked for his reaction, one postgraduate student said, “Academicians in Malaysian public universities should uphold a high standard of ethics. Making stereotypical racist comments against students is very unbecoming and reflects badly on the university and the degrees it confers.”
The student who wrote the complaint has demanded an apology from the lecturer.
An apology to the direct victims of the insult is not enough, if the lecturer is indeed guilty. She should apologise to the public and the apology should be published in all the mainstream papers. And Universiti Malaya must sack her.
Mariam Mokhtar is an FMT columnist.
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