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Iran Daily Slams Deteriorating Academic Standards

August 1, 2008

Text of editorial by Farzaneh Rusta’i, headlined: “An elegy for the faculty of law” published by Iranian newspaper Etemad website on 27 July

On one of the days of spring 1370 [1991-92], I was reviewing the notes I had taken in the previous session while waiting for the lecturer of Islamic political jurisprudence behind the green bench in one of the classes on the third floor of the Political Science and Law Faculty of Tehran University. The lecturer who later became the chancellor of the university for some time entered the class and began the lecture. A few minutes later, students were looking at each other with surprise as he was lecturing some other topic instead the one related to this class. The students’ surprise indicated that the mentioned lecturer had mistakenly begun the lecture for another topic in this class and of course this was not the first time as the students had previously witnessed the same lecturer teaching different module mistakenly in some other class.

The above criticism is the introduction for stating a fundamental problem about the organisation of the political group at Political Science and Law Faculties and this is due to the fact that a huge number of modules were introduced after the Cultural Revolution for being taught at the political science department without being defined or having an introduction or conclusion which were neither taught anywhere else in the past nor had any credible sources or references. Moreover, no experienced and recognised lecturer was assigned to teach them in a specific and compiled manner.

The only objective of module designers for the above courses was to synchronize the courses of this field of study which formed the ideas of the students studying in this field towards power, political authority, the people and their relation with the constitutional law.

The above modules were faced with a fundamental problem from the very beginning and that was the question as to who should be in charge of teaching the new courses. However, an automatic solution was found for this problem. Since the definition and concept of these modules were very general, motto like and recommendatory and were not tested anywhere else, any less experienced newcomer could teach them because it was bereft of specific scientific and detailed definition of issues in political science and this would easily lead to unproductive generalised and lengthy talks. From the very beginning, the political science groups had also no choice but to accept the new selected modules or come to terms with them.

The wave of political science graduates from Teachers Training [Tarbiat Modarres] University, who held a similar ideological background, was put in charge of teaching these modules one after the other. Teaching these modules did not require any skills other than an hour of general talks. The wave of very young, inexperienced and untested lectures who in some cases were given the position of lecturing in one of the oldest universities of the country on the basis of their “special connections” gradually faced the students with the reality that even passing all the modules of the political science would not add to their political knowledge and that it would only lead them a step closer to graduation. An abundance of modules coupled with the suspension of some well-known professors of this faculty such as Mohammad Javad Tabatab’i who used to lecture important modules such as political thought gradually led to the doubt that a trench to trench battle was taking place at this university, the victors of which did not achieve anything for the faculty other than establishing their own administrative and educational position. Also, some of the professors such as Dr Hoseyn Bashirieh who is the father of Iran’s political sociology and has apparently lost the game (dismissed from university) had offers from some of the world’s most esteemed universities for research and lecturing.

After many years, today is the tomorrow of the same day when a huge number of modules – about 25 educational courses for the students of this faculty – did not bear any fruits as the classes and departments which like many of the internationally recognised universities would have been a place for exchanging and debating thoughts and new and old theories were turned into such classes of copying and memorising course handouts. As a result no prominent experts and professors were ever produced for country’s academic communities after the retirements or even filtering a group of experienced professors. Surprisingly, this even removed the sense of need for experienced lecturers in the educational system.

The presence of lecturers from a particular political group in this faculty along with the purge or even absence of any other political or ideological group indicates as if a coup d’tat has just been completed in this faculty, the winners of which only reminds about the hero in Cervantes’ novel, Don Quixote.

In addition to the continuous existence of such a problem, a second wave of the retirement of this faculty’s professors began. This is while, according to the law, the professors of all internationally recognised universities retired after almost thirty years of teaching and around the age of 70. But in such circumstances where an educational system does not have the ability to replace some of the distinguished professors, it would be better for the University of Tehran to prefer the educational expediency over formal administrative and legal regulations. In some cases such as the professor of Labour Law, Dr Araqi, the professor of International Law, Dr Momtaz, the professor of Criminal Law, Dr Katuzian and the professor of Criminal Procedure, Dr Ashuri, there is practically no replacement.

But those who have so far made decisions for this faculty – outside the administrative regulations – as to which professor should not continue, which professors should not take advantage of the sabbaticals, the administrative and educational affairs of which professor should be procrastinated and which professor should continue teaching nearly all the modules even after the age of 71 and do not retire and also those who have prepared such conditions where proficient professors such as Dr Hoseyn Bashirieh would prefer immigration over haggling are responsible for wasting the life of the students at this faculty who have not learned politics in its scientific and applicable format after four years of study and passing 145 modules.

Originally published by E’temad website, Tehran, in Persian 27 Jul 08.

(c) 2008 BBC Monitoring Middle East. Provided by ProQuest Information and Learning. All rights Reserved.