Leave the University Alone

Leave the University Alone

Addis Tribune, December 13, 2002

The incumbent government and the one that preceded it are well known for their meddling in the affairs of the Addis Ababa University, which is purely an academic institution. What happened last week is but a clear manifestation of a direct intrusion by the ruling party into the academic affairs of the University.

To put it briefly, this is what happened. The ruling party had tried to instill its tradition of “gimgema” in the evaluation of the academic staff of the University. The government insisted that lecturers should be evaluated by their students. The academic staff argued that students’ evaluation can not - and will not - be fair and, if at all such method should be applied, it should be introduced slowly and carefully.

A couple of instances - as told to Addis Tribune by one dean of a faculty - could be cited here. An instructor, because of his seriously planned daily routine, and being an early bird, always arrives at his work at 6 a.m. and is known for his exceptional punctuality among his colleagues. Almost half of his students, who were unhappy for this or that reason, said the instructor in question was a latecomer and hardly arrived on time during lectures.

To give another instance, not a small number of students went to the office of this same dean to first know what they had scored in a certain subject prior to filling the evaluation forms.

And there could be similar instances in every faculty and department.

The standoff between the university and the government officials still continues and, in the meantime, the three top leaders of the University, the president, the academic vice president and the business vice president, have reportedly tendered their resignation.

A war of words between Tefera Walwa, representing the government, and the University president, Professor Eshetu Woncheko, at a recent meeting is  proof of the interference by the government in the affairs of the University. Tefera Walwa has been calling the leaders and the academic staff of the University all kinds of names for defending their rights and never allowing interference by the government. Tefera has even gone to the extent of calling the University a hiding place for subversives and supporters of the Derg regime.

The University, as an academic institution, should be allowed to apply its own standard of evaluating its academic staff. “Gimgema” could be applicable to the ruling party for evaluating its cadres and members - but not to academic institutions and professional establishments.

“Gimgema” is a Stalinist way of unfair evaluation and is totally communist in origin. It is an outmoded and archaic method of assessing performance in any field of endeavour.