“Media” deanship deepens division and discords among students
Enab Baladi – Dayan Junpaz
The issue of the Faculty of Mass Communication at the Free University of Aleppo in the border Azaz city is still witnessing some tensions and accusations between its parties, namely students and the university’s administration, amid students’ demands waiting to be met.
The case came to light two months ago when faculty students posted screenshots of WhatsApp conversation messages that they said were threats and were communicated by unknown individuals following disagreements with the former dean of the college, Ahmed al-Taweel, accusing the university of ignoring their demands to appoint Pr. Alaa Tabbab as dean, and holding it responsible for the said messages.
The students signed a university rectorate’s statement that included several demands, including the dismissal of the dean, Ahmed al-Taweel, justifying that with “corruption, negative behavior, and his repeated insults to students,” they said. Meanwhile, students refuse to accept Pr. Tabbab as dean after “his mobilization against the university,” as some of them put it.
How the problem started
The case began with a student movement following “administrative, educational, and moral corruption” by the former Dean of the Faculty of Mass Communication, Ahmed al-Taweel, according to a statement published by the “Faculty of Mass Communication’s Delegated Students.”
Students picketed in the faculty yard to demand an end to Dean Ahmed al-Taweel’s actions and behaviors. They submitted their statement in writing and orally, which included several complaints concerning the dean and some other figures during their meeting with a committee composed of advisors, deans of the faculties of the Free Aleppo University, and the rector of the university.
The statement included a main demand, which is the dismissal of Dean Ahmed al-Taweel, and the appointment of Pr. Alaa Rajab Tabbab (who resides outside northern Syria) as dean.
The University’s administration promised to respond to the demands. But by the beginning of the semester, Pr. Alaa Tabbab was let go (he was giving online classes), and Pr. al-Taweel remained dean of the faculty, bringing the protests back to the starting point.
Students protested what they perceived as “university circumvention and evasiveness,” only for the case to move from within campus to the media after some Faculty of Mass Communication students received messages that carried threats, even death threats, they said.
Faculty of Mass Communication student, Karam Darukh, told Enab Baladi that he received numerous messages from strange and unknown numbers and that after he receives the message, he gets blocked, so he cannot respond. He receives messages from other numbers with explicit death threats and demands to stay away from the issue of the protests.
Darukh explained that the messages were sent directly to supervisors and representatives of the university’s batches, and he is one of them. Some of them contained PDF files or direct messages. He also received a call from a private number.
Darukh held the university administration responsible for any danger he might be exposed to after the threatening messages because some of those messages carried information known only to the university and those in charge of it, he said.
Students Nabiha al-Taha, Abdullah al-Daghim, and Hibat Allah Barakat have also received similar messages.
What is the university’s response?
After the protests rose, the university made some changes within the teaching staff, including the appointment of Pr. Ahmed al-Taweel as a teacher of certain subjects in the Faculty of Arts’ History Department.
The administrative deputy at the university, Pr. Mohammad Ramez Korg told Enab Baladi that the issue was settled by appointing Pr. Khaled Qalaji as dean of the Faculty of Mass Communication and Political Science, and appointing Pr. Ahmed Osama Najjar as deputy dean.
Korg denied that the university had anything to do with the messages that carried threats to students without further clarifying the issue as a whole and students’ ongoing demands.
Despite the changes, the demands of the students interviewed by Enab Baladi are still present, considering that the university is intransigent and invoking unconvincing reasons to evade meeting their demands. Pr. Alaa Tabbab’s contract was terminated, Dean Ahmed al-Taweel was dismissed, and he was granted an assignment in another department at the university for the academic year 2022-2023, and none of the statement’s demands were met.
Demands to appoint Pr. Tabbab as the faculty’s dean, were met with numerous criticism from students whom Enab Baladi had interviewed and asked about their wish to appoint him.
Student and representative of the student body at the Mass Communication College, Amr al-Dali, explained that opinions are not limited to students of one or two batches, as there are five batches at the mass communication branch both at the institute and the faculty; everyone has the right to choose and have an opinion, not only those whose opinion agrees with Pr. Tabbab’s.
Al-Dali told Enab Baladi that students are unanimous that they have lost a “scientific stature” such as Pr. Tabbab. However, not everyone demands him as a dean, pointing out that all students demand a “competent” dean, but not by slandering the previous dean or demanding a specific person.
Al-Dali, who was one of the attendees of the students’ meeting with the university’s rectorate about the demand for appointing Pr. Tabbab as dean said that whoever demanded Tabbab changed the focus of the conversation for which the students entered, and not everyone agrees with such demand. Some of the students began to defame their former dean, demanding that Tabbab be appointed as their dean. The university’s rectorate stated that there is no problem between it and Pr. Tabbab.
Al-Dali pointed out that Pr. Tabbab “has unfortunately been fighting for a position, not for students, as he claims.” This is evidenced by the fact that when a student discusses a matter that contradicts his opinion, he bans him and “domesticates” him without discussion, as al-Dali put it.
The student stated that when Pr. Tabbab accuses the university of corruption, he not only fights against the Deanship and the students of the Mass Communication Faculty but rather against the university and all its disciplines.
For his part, student Mahmoud Najjar (a second-year mass communication student at the Free Aleppo University), after praising the role of Pr. Tabbab said that the consensus of some students on choosing him as a dean does not mean a total consensus, and there are many students who do not prefer him as dean of the faculty.
Najjar explained that Pr. Tabbab was praised because he was “a voice for students who were subjected to misjudgment and lack of fairness on the part of some teachers,” but he is currently being criticized for contributing to “mobilization” against the university and teachers. He considered that accusing the university of “organized corruption” is unacceptable, and the students did not notice the validity of the accusations of “corruption” against the former dean of the faculty, Pr. Ahmed al-Taweel.
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