The resignation of Dr Hassan Hameed, the vice chancellor of the Maldives National University, has elicited an outpouring of support on social media and a campaign requesting President Abdulla Yameen to re-appoint him to the university board.
Hameed resigned on Thursday in the wake of amendments to the national university law that authorizes the president to appoint nine members to the 13-member governing council, including the chancellor and the vice chancellor.
The president could previously only appoint the chancellor who also heads the governing council.
Hameed had served at the university and the former Maldives College of Higher Education since 1998. He was elected for the position of vice chancellor in 2011.
In a letter to all the staff at the MNU on Saturday, Hameed said he had submitted his resignation on Thursday and asked them to support new appointments to the board. “17 years is a long time in one’s life. If I’ve offended any of you, I wish for your generous forgiveness,” he said.
The main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party has warned that the changes will compromise the MNU’s independence and politicize the institution.
Officials will be hired and dismissed for political reasons if the institution is politicized, the MDP said, and pave the way for the “misuse of the university’s students, employees, and resources to achieve political purposes.”
On Saturday, a supporter started a Facebook Page calling on President Yameen to reinstate Dr Hameed. The “Dr. Hassan for MNU” has gained 1,641 supporters in one day.
“When the university bills were passed by the parliament, I was concerned that Dr. Hassan may not be the choice of the president of at least, that is the rumor I’ve heard. I thought it might not be in the best interest of the nation to be deprived of his service. He is one of the few individuals who have a vision for the advancement of this country in the field of science and engineering in particular, not to mention his passion for the university’s development,” said Ahmed Hussein, who had started the page.
“I would like to respectfully request the president and anyone who is involved in making this decision to seriously consider Dr. Hassan’s invaluable service to the nation and to let him continue to serve the people. There is no replacement for him,” he added.
Hameed was not available for comment at the time of going to press.
He did not state the reasons for his resignation, but many supporters on social media suggested Hameed was forced to resign. Some pro-government supporters, meanwhile, accused him of treating the university “like his home.”
One supporter said: “Another sad day for democracy since the vice chancellor of the nations only university who was democratically elected to the post had to leave because of government sponsored changes to remove autonomy.”
Students and teachers at the university described Hameed as visionary and humble.
Aishath Ali, the registrar at MNU, said Hameed was the first to come into the office and the last to leave. “The people who are closest to him are the security guards, the laborers, those who cannot do anything for him. Despite his great knowledge and high position, he is very humble and down to earth.”
Many supporters said Hameed had turned down ministerial jobs to stay at the MNU. One commenter said he had introduced undergraduate degrees and later postgraduate when “so many people told him this was not possible in a small country like the Maldives.”
Another former employee said: “He supported everyone and had a smile on his face. I like his way of critically thinking on every aspect of what may happen. Learnt a lot from Dr. Hassan Hameed.”
The former minister of Islamic affairs Dr Abdul Majeed Abdul Bari and the minister of youth and sports, Mohamed Maleeh Jamal, said Hameed’s resignation was a loss to the nation.
A former student, Jaleel Ahmed said: “He brought changes to teaching style in Majeedhiyya [a high school in Malé], during the 80s and 90s when he was teaching physics. As a result, many students were able to think on their own, which has resulted in great academic achievements.”