On the Beat | By Wong Chun Wai

Undergrads must get priorities right

The speakers included Education Minister Datuk Seri Najib
Tun  Razak and the respective
mentris  besar and chief ministers.

The decision seems obvious.  Umno leaders
realise the importance of keeping in touch with tertiary students and the
personal  touch always makes the difference.

Since the sacking of Datuk Seri  Anwar
Ibrahim from the Cabinet  and Umno last
year, our university  students have been
involved in  demonstrations against the

The anti-Government sentiment  is strong
in the campus with the  Malay students
being the most  critical.

Copying the reformasi movements in Indonesia, our students  see themselves as forces of  change.

The impact of this anger is serious. Unless Umno wins over these  angry students soon, it will have  serious repercussions in the elections of the
next millennium, even  if they won't
affect the coming  elections.

The critics would probably regard the Government briefings as  a form of brain-washing by politicians.

Some have questioned why two way forums have not been organised by the
ministers to hear the  grievances of the

There are merits and demerits in  such
briefings. From the decision,  it is
clear that the Government  leaders want
to have the first go in  having their
side of the story  heard.

They believe many emotional issues are being bandied about and  the students have not got the right  picture.

Our students, they believed, are  being
used in an uprising against  the

Those of us who have gone  through
orientation programmes  in our local universities
know what  these programmes are

Except for the Student Affairs 
Department officials, the freshies 
are left to student leaders involved 
in the orientation once they are in 
the campus.

Most of our student leaders, particularly from the east coast, are  strongly influenced by PAS. They  are the ones who are likely to dominate
campus politics.

During orientation week, the freshies are forced to wake up before  dawn to attend lectures including  those with religious inclination.

Sometimes, the religious sensitivities of other races, are ignored  by lecturers who get carried away  with their own beliefs and prejudices.

When the seniors return to campus, after the semester break, to  join the freshies, it is even worse.  That is when we read about ragging involving
the seniors and freshies.

Whether we like to admit it or  not,
university students are, by nature, anti-establishment.

Being young and idealistic, opposition figures are more popular  than government leaders.

During political forums, where  both
government and opposition  figures
debate, the former are often booed.

Students see themselves as the  nation's
future leaders. They want  their views to
be taken seriously,  and rightly

Healthy involvement of students  in
current affairs enables our students to think.

It helps to nurture a sense of 
commitment and the growth of a 
thinking generation.

The universities must not be  seen as a
mere degree churning  factory but as an
institution to ponder serious issues affecting society.

There is this general feeling that  the
involvement of Cabinet ministers and mentris besar at such  seminar is akin to a sledgehammer  treatment to what is happening in  campuses.

It is an over-kill. I am sure they  have
more urgent matters to attend to. The job should be left to  speakers from the various think tanks and
prominent figures from  the various
sectors, such as business and media.

Such speakers, who are not directly involved in politics, would  have more credibility.

It would also be more appropriate for the seminar to be part of  the week-long orientation programme.

Now that the cabinet ministers  have
given their views, there is  nothing to
stop our students from  insisting that
they invite the opposition politicians.

But the students must never forget that nobody owes them a living.

Taxpayers have the right to demand that these students work for  their degree. The money for their  scholarships does not drop from  the skies.

We have read about top STPM  scorers who
cannot get into medical schools because of the quota  system.

There are many of such less fortunate students in local private  colleges, TAR and ITM who would  love to take the places of these student
hotheads in our local universities.

Their priority is to study hard  and get
their degree. There is  nothing to stop
them from becoming full-time politicians or full time loafers once they leave
the  campus.

Our students must not allow  themselves
to be used by politicians, opposition or otherwise.

They are of no use to society or  their
political idols if they fail in  their

Taxpayers want to see our campus community produce great inventions, quality
researches,  award-winning publications
and  people with greater proficiency in  English, instead of seeing students  spending too much time in demonstrations,
ceramahs and issuing  press

I think it is not wrong to say that 
Malaysians have had enough of 
politicians and politicking. We certainly do not need students who
act  like politicians.