Proposal of law that authorizes head of universities to expel faculty members is a flagrant violation of academic freedom as well as fair and just disciplinary process


AFTE followed with great concern news covered in a number of Egyptian newspapers regarding the approval by cabinet of an amendment to university regulating laws, allowing the head of university to expel faculty members from their positions, if accused of demonstrations, inciting violence or obstructing educational process. The proposed amendments introduces a new paragraph to article 104 of university regulating law no. 49/1972 stating that “no member of faculty shall commit any of the following breaches: participate in demonstrations that result in obstruction of educational process, prevent taking examinations or exercise any influence thereon, incite or help in an of the above, entry of weapons, munitions, explosives or any other material that may be used in inciting vandalism and unrest, deliberate vandalism of university buildings or institutions or property, inciting or committing violence in university”. The amendment also includes article 110 addressing disciplinary measures to be applied to faculty, where it authorizes the head of university to directly decree the expulsion of faculty members based on the charges mentioned in articles 103 and 104 of the law organizing universities.
AFTE considers that the discussion and approval of those amendments in cabinet constitute a major violation of the independence of the university by the executive authority. The university is an educational institution, independent of the state and other forces in society. It is entitled to decide autonomously on decisions that regulate its internal financial and administrative affairs, as well as develop its own educational and research policies and related activities.
AFTE reiterates that an appropriate discussion of university related issues should initially take place between members of the academic community in departmental, faculty and university councils, and not by top0to-bottom decisions and proposals from the executive authority, thereby violating the independence of the university and its effectiveness in academia and the production of knowledge. This violation is in breach of article 21 of the Egyptian constitution which obliges the state to respect the independence of universities.
AFTE also condemns the proposed decree for its negative impact on academic freedom of faculty members and its violation of related international principles and documents. The Lima declaration for academic freedom and the independence of institutions of higher education (1988) states that ” No member of the academic community shall be dismissed without a fair hearing before a democratically elected body of the academic community”. Also article (8) on Intellectual Freedom and Social Responsibility (1990) states that ” Teaching and researching members of the intellectual community shall have security of tenure. They shall not be dismissed or removed from employment except for reasons of gross misconduct, proven incompetence or negligence incompatible with the academic profession. Disciplinary proceedings for dismissal or removal on grounds stated in this article shall be in accordance with laid down procedures providing for a fair hearing before a democratically elected body of the intellectual community”.
The above mentioned proposed amendment bypasses those international standards, since it violates the rights of faculty members to a fair and just disciplinary proceedings, administered by a specialized academic committee that provides them with the right to defense. The decree replaces those standards with an authorization to the head of university with absolute power to dismiss faculty members without minimum standard of disciplinary procedure, thereby exposing faculty members to the constant threat of an administrative decision that deprives them of any sense of job security and accordingly also of their ability to freely research, study, discuss or debate inside university. The content of the proposed decree is also incompatible with the principle of scaled punitive measures as well as fulfilling the required legal procedures for a disciplinary measure, which are required by means of the university regulating law no. 49/1972. This proposal is likely to provide head of universities with a tool for restricting academic freedom inside universities, by restricting academic innovation and subjecting staff members to limitations in expression, thought and research.
AFTE also believes that the proposed legislative amendment is unconstitutional since it violates the principles of supremacy of law mentioned in article 94 of the constitution, by authorizing the dismissal by the head of university, instead of a disciplinary committee. The proposed amendment also violates the principle of crime jurisdiction according to article 95 of the constitution, which stipulates that the punishment, whether criminal or disciplinary, requires that the accused exercising the right to a fair and just trial in front of a judicial or administrative body.
In that proposed amendment, AFTE recognizes an extension of a pattern that allows the executive authority, represented by the president of the republic, who appoints heads of universities. The proposal maximizes authoritarianism and interference by the president inside universities and in academic affairs as well as the academic community at large and opens the door wide for the accusation of any faculty member, who differs in views from those of the political regime, of inciting violence and obstructing the educational process.
AFTE calls upon the cabinet to immediately withdraw this proposal and to put an end to the interference in university affairs and the restriction of academic freedoms. AFTE also is weary of the dangerous consequences on the effectiveness and knowledge production by the academic community that might result of the recent compilation of decrees and decisions which target the freedoms and rights of faculty and students.