Just when one thinks that the UM vice-chancellor has been brought an inch closer to reality, Dato' Professor Hashim Yaacob comes out with some unbelievable tricks. After a whole year of grandiose proclamations and self-adoration, the UM figurehead can't seem to satisfy his lust for cheap publicity.
The latest "improved" billboards (there are six of them) speak for themselves. As a citizen of Universiti Malaya, words fail me should I attempt to express my embarrassment over the latest antics of the most thick-skinned vice-chancellor in UM's history.
To begin with, the initial ranking of 89th was highly dubious as UM recorded a foreign student composition of 40%, making it among the most international institutions of Planet Earth. Greater scrutiny and analysis by respectable blogger Tony P proposed that such a 40% figure could only be arrived at if all the non-Malay students of Universiti Malaya were regarded as foreign students.
In the year 2000, various lame excuses were given to justify the "inaccuracy" of university rankings when UM took a free fall plunge to the 47th spot in the Asian university rankings undertaken by the now-defunct Asiaweek magazine. Five years later, we see the same and identical denial syndrome adopted by Higher Education Minister Shafie Salleh and the UM VC himself.
Vice Chancellor Hashim Yaacob could take a cue from Goh Chok Tong, senior minister of Singapore. At the Wharton Global Alumni Forum, the former premier was quoted to have said that: "A leader measures success by how well he grows others and not by how much he grows himself". Had our Dato' Professor not been so obsessed with self-elevation, perhaps UM could have salvaged some face by not tumbling a disastrous 80 places.
The fact is, universities become great only because they have outstanding graduates and undoubtedly, this is where the University of Malaya falters. An education system based on racial quotas, political interests and a culture of patronage can never produce the best graduates simply because one is not accepting the best students and the best lecturers.
Instead of producing graduates who contribute to the nation's economic and intellectual wealth, UM and other local universities are burdening an already ailing economy with unemployed and unemployable graduates.
Back here in UM, the vice-chancellor, ever since his appointment in 2003, has propagated an atmosphere reeking of selective political repression, racial and religious discrimination, and an open practice of materialism not unlike the money politics of Umno.
Rather than inculcate a culture of intellect and critical thinking, our Dato' Professor has indoctrinated the students with pro-Umno policies through regular events and VIP dinners designed to curry favor with Umno politicians.
Rather than taking concrete steps to tackle immediate problems like the deplorable standard of English among students and lecturers, the VC went on a one-year self-promotional tour. With a vice-chancellor more interested in stifling the freedom of thought among his students and getting into the good books of Umno, how can UM be 'cemerlang, gemilang, terbilang'
The problems besetting UM are obvious and the solution is a question of political will. Some things will have to go if UM and local universities are to gain any credibility on the international front.
These include the dual entry system for varsities, the University and University Colleges Act (UUCA), the Skim Latihan Akademik Bumiputra (Slab), and the Aku Janji pledge, amongst others.
I do not expect such changes to take place under the current higher education minister and vice-chancellor. I therefore urge Shafie Salleh and Hashim Yaacob to resign in grace for the benefit of the students and the nation they grew up in.
Cukup-lah Dato' Professor, resign-lah.