Makerere University staff urge Nawangwe to reinstate suspended Deans’ Forum

Makerere University staff have called on Vice-Chancellor Prof. Barnabas Nawangwe to reinstate the Deans’ Forum, which he suspended last month on the grounds that its existence was illegal.

Staff of their joint associations – Makerere University Academic Staff Association (MUASA), Makerere Administrative Staff Association (MASA) and Nuei – said the suspension was one of the continued measures that undermine fundamental human rights and academic freedoms at the university.

The Makerere University Deans’ Forum (MUDF) was established to promote academic excellence through collective action, capacity building and sharing of best practices. It comprised deans of faculties and directors of teaching institutes and consisted of 29 members from across the university.

But in a letter dated May 29, Nawangwe called on the acting Deputy Chancellor for Academic Affairs, Prof. Umar Kakumba, to dissolve the forum, citing the legality of its existence.

“I have received complaints regarding the legality of the Dean’s Forum. Until the legality of this forum is clarified, all activities of the forum are hereby suspended,” the letter dated May 29 briefly states.

On May 30, Kakumba wrote a letter to the Chairman and members of MUDF, Deans, Rectors and Deputy Rector of the Faculty of Law informing them of the Vice Chancellor’s decision. This has, however, caused displeasure among the staff of Makerere University and they have called on Nawangwe to immediately revoke his decision, saying that this is one of the acts frequently committed in the university and which violates academic freedom.

They referred to the recent investigation of the lecturer who asked a question about the current problems of the Speaker of Parliament Annet Anita. Among other things, Nawangwe ordered an inquiry which, in her opinion, tarnishes the reputation of the university.

“In order for staff and students to contribute to the work of the University and to achieve their full potential, they need to be assured that the exercise of their freedom of association, conscience, etc. will not bring them into conflict with University management,” the letter said.

“Yet your suspension of the Deans’ Forum, your recent stance on the School of Law’s L1210 exam, etc., inevitably deprive staff and students of this assurance. Moreover, even if such measures are eventually lifted, they leave indelible scars of self-censorship that have a detrimental effect on staff and student productivity,” they added.

“Even though many of your suspensions have been found inappropriate and overturned by the Appointments Committee, the Personnel Tribunal and the Supreme Court, these suspensions have caused indelible damage to the image of the university,” the staff added.

In addition, the staff called on the Vice-Chancellor to refrain from attitudes and actions that undermine the fundamental human rights and academic freedoms of the members of Makerere University.

“We request that you refrain from attitudes and actions that compromise the fundamental human rights and academic freedoms of the members of Makerere University. This will give the community assurance that you and other members of the university management will not illegally restrict and violate their inherent human rights and academic freedoms. Failure to do so will compel members of the university community to turn to other human rights defenders,” the staff said.