Education Minister Says Dismissal of University of Indonesia Deans Invalid
Natasia Christy Wahyuni
The board of trustees at the University of Indonesia (UI) has overturned rector Gumilar Rusliwa Somantri’s controversial dismissal of several deans at the university, saying they should remain in charge until new deans are elected.
Gumilar reportedly dismissed seven deans and the chairman of UI’s postgraduate programs earlier this week, arguing it was a decision of the board of trustees (MWA) after their meeting last week. The same meeting concluded that Gumilar’s term should end on Aug. 14.
Gumilar also dismissed the chairman of UI’s Postgraduate Programs, Chandra Wijaya, and the dean of the medical school, Ratna Sitompul, who was discharged several days earlier, bringing the total number of staff fired to nine, eight of whom were deans.
Education and Culture Minister Mohammad Nuh, a member of the board, said that Gumilar had misinterpreted the regulations by not scheduling elections before dismissing the deans.
Nuh explained that Gumilar based the dismissal on an article in a decree of the MWA dated on July 26. The article says: “MWA asks the rector [must] immediately organize elections [to appoint new deans] to replace those whose terms have ended, in line with existing regulation.”
Nuh said the rector has used the article to dismiss the deans whose terms have ended. “But there’s another interpretation, namely that [the MWA] has requested elections according to regulations, as opposed to [immediate] dismissals,” Nuh said in Jakarta on Friday.
“The MWA again held a meeting yesterday and decided that the discharged deans are basically still in charge; [their positions] remain valid,” the minister added.
Nuh said Gumilar should concede to the decision, as the MWA was the highest authority at UI.
Nuh also said that he would appoint a senior official within his ministry to serve as an acting rector of UI when Gumilar’s term ends on Aug. 14. Nuh refused, however, to name the official that he prepared for the position.
The seven deans are from the School of Cultural Science, Bambang Wibawarta; the School of Engineering, Bambang Sugiarto; the School of Public Health, Bambang Wispriyono; the School of Math and Natural Science, Adi Basukriadi; the School of Dentistry, Bambang Irawan; the School of Nursing, Dewi Irawaty; and the School of Social and Political Science, Bambang Shergi Laksmono.
In July, the Rector fired Medical School dean Ratna Sitompul for allegedly spearheading an antigraft movement targeted at him.
The eight deans and the postgraduate program chairman have filed a “motion of no confidence” with the education ministry in protest against their dismissals, saying it is another example of Gumilar’s “dictatorial” leadership that was against UI policies.
UI’s Student Council (BEM UI) similarly protested the rector’s “dictatorship,” demanding that the education ministry immediately appoint an acting rector to replace Gumilar before a new one is elected.
“Student councils of all schools across UI want no more of this dictatorship in the management of the UI. All policies issued by UI must be transparent and accountable,” BEM UI chairman Faldo Maldini said.
Gumilar has been a rector of the UI, a leading Indonesian university, since 2007, and has been involved in several contentious issues over the past year.
Gumilar scuffled with the board of trustees in Dec. 2011 after he issued a letter to the board saying that under a new government regulation, the trustees had no authority over him and that as rector, he only had to answer to the Education and Cultural Minister.
In Sept. 2011, Gumilar was also at odds with the board following his decision to award an honorary doctorate to Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah, which came on the heels of a string of horrific abuse cases involving Indonesian domestic workers in Saudi Arabia. The decision provoked a firestorm of criticism.