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Students’ rights campaign voices outrage over changes in universities draft law

By Ana V. Ibáñez Prieto - Feb 12,2018 - Last updated at Feb 12,2018

AMMAN —  The National Campaign for Defending Students’ Rights (Thabahtoona) on Sunday issued a press statement expressing “shock” over the Parliament’s adoption of Article 26 of the draft law on Jordanian universities, which grants university presidents the administrative powers to collect university fees. 

“The adoption of such an article confirms that financial and security aspects were the legislators’ main concern when preparing the law,” the statement said, criticising that “the academic and scientific aspects occupy no space in the minds of the MPs and the government”. 

The organisation raised concerns over the “dangers” of this amendment, expressing that “university presidents will stop being academic, scientific and educational figures to become a mere security authority”. The statement added that “this issue places a question mark on the future of our universities and the mechanisms used to select the presidents of public universities in the coming years”.

“Providing the university presidents with the right to control the collection of the fees will change their priorities into getting more and more money — which is already a problem considering the ever-increasing tuition fees,” University of Jordan student Lubna Mohammad told The Jordan Times in a recent interview, expressing concerns over the possibility of an increase in the corruption levels. 

For her part, student Iman Al Khalil said that “with such a regulation, the university campus will turn into a field for prosecution,” complaining that “the new draft law for Jordanian universities doesn’t take into account any exclusively educational aspect, and all new regulations share the same end: Money”. 

The statement also addressed Article 27 of the draft law denouncing “the parliament’s pretext to grant law-enforcement authority to university guards in order to reduce violence in higher education institutions”, noting that “conferences, workshops and studies have proven that the university guards themselves are a major part of the phenomenon of university violence due to their bias against one side in the quarrels or their direct involvement in them”. 

“We shall not forget that most of the guards come from a specific tribe or group of people and that they will always belong to them,” Mohammad continued, explaining that “in the event of a quarrel, guards will always stand with their tribe, which makes them not competitive enough to hold law enforcement powers”. 

In this regard, the campaign pointed out that university guards are not qualified enough to take the powers of the law enforcement authority, noting that “this will increase the state-of-security mindset at universities at the expense of the academic, educational and scientific aspects”.

“The main — undeclared— objective of turning the guards into the law-enforcing authority is to confront student movements and restrict their freedom,” the statement concluded, highlighting “the government’s tendency to raise university fees and their fear of student movements countering this trend”. 

“I feel like all the demonstrations that we have been holding lately at the university will start being banned once the new law comes into effect,” Khalil stated, stressing that “if the law is going to be modified, it should protect the students’ right to protest as long as it is done in a peaceful way”.

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