Press Release on the independent inquiry findings on recent incidents at the College of Science & Technology
There has been talk and speculations on the recent incidents at the College of Science & Technology (CST). An independent team conducted an inquiry on the case from 11-16 September 2023. The Team has reviewed the incidents and associated problems, drawn a number of conclusions and made recommendations. Key findings of the team noted the following:
- Lack of clear communication.
A significant factor contributing to the incidents was a lack of clear and effective communication among the CST stakeholders. The Team observed that there is a palpable trust deficit among the transformation team, management and faculty characterized by a lack of harmony and collaboration. This has impacted teamwork and cohesiveness. This deficiency has been detrimental to the institution’s ability to bring about meaningful change and has led to various challenges in communication, cooperation, and decision-making. This has also fueled anxiety, rumor mongering and suspicion not only on campus but in the community. Efforts must be made to foster open communications, transparency and consistency in building a culture of trust, improving engagement and supporting the necessary reforms that benefits everyone.
The Team also observed a lack of well-defined terms of reference for the transformation team and recruited experts, both at the individual and general levels. These terms of reference play a critical role in setting expectations and delineating the scope of their responsibilities. The absence of clear guidelines and consistent communication hinders effective collaboration. Therefore, it is imperative to promptly establish terms of reference to create a shared understanding of expectations, clarify accountabilities and outline the roles of the transformation team and the recruited experts in the college reform initiative.
- The practice of “briefing” and its impact
The practice of “briefing” was noted to be an issue of concern. While intended to help junior students adapt to college rules and norms, the practice had elements of harassment and ragging where junior student are sometimes subjected to verbal abuse and condescending treatment by senior fourth year students, often at odd hours. These briefings are more commonly observed among male students with junior students becoming the targets of such actions. Although there are no formal terms of reference or written directives from the college, both students and college personnel are well aware of the practice of briefings on campus.
The Team has strongly advised that the college promptly discontinues the practice of briefing, adopt a “zero tolerance policy” on ragging and take strict measures to prevent such activities. The team has noted that continuation of these activities poses a significant risk to the overall learning environment. These activities can have adverse effects on the mental well-being of victims, leading to issues like stress, depression, anxiety and demoralization. Any information dissemination to new students should be limited to the orientation session at the beginning of the semester, overseen by the Dean of Student Affairs’ Office.
- Proposals to improve student welfare and development
Though the proposals aimed at improving student mess operation and student development activities were well-intentioned, it was not communicated properly. This has resulted in misunderstandings and misgiving, thereby leading to resistance among some students regarding the proposed changes.
Interactions between faculty and students primarily revolve around program and academic-related matters. While a few faculty members do engage with students in activities outside of academics, there is an opportunity for the CST management to implement mechanisms that keep faculty members informed and involved in student-related activities such as career-focused interactions, industry engagement, etc. Such engagement has the potential to enhance students’ academic self-confidence and bolster their motivation levels.
- Adherence to the Code of conduct
The Team observed instances of lack of adherence to the code of conduct at the college. Every member of the college, at all times, is expected to conduct his or her activities in accordance with the highest professional and community ethical standards. The Team recommends the urgency of rigorously reminding and enforcing, wherever applicable, the code of conduct to all staff and faculty members, regardless of their position within the college or their level of engagement. This is vital to ensure the smooth operation of the college and to maintain a conducive environment for teaching and learning.
The college, in conjunction with the Royal University of Bhutan, has an established Code of Conduct for students and staff (members), which serves as a comprehensive guideline outlining expected behavior and delineating what constitutes acceptable and unacceptable practices. Additionally, the college has instituted a College Discipline Committee, endorsed by the University’s Academic Board, with the responsibility of overseeing discipline maintenance within the college. Every member of CST is expected to be familiar with the code of conduct which are applicable to his or her position and duties. It is imperative to provide thorough orientation to all new faculties and staff including the transformation team on these matters. The college must implement programs to further members’ awareness and to promote compliance.
The Royal University of Bhutan accepts the findings of the report and welcomes its recommendations. The University is committed to addressing the issues promptly and effectively, and to make necessary changes to policy, procedure and institutional culture.
A collaborative task force will be established, bringing together all stakeholders, including students, faculty and staff to address and implement the recommendations. This collective effort aims to create a safe and more inclusive environment for all members of the CST community.
The University would like to assure everyone that it is committed to maintaining an environment in which all students feel safe and respected, and a place where their concerns can freely be expressed and acted upon. The University is committed to taking whatever steps are appropriate to enhance safeguards, enforce standards of conduct, and improve mechanisms for individuals to report grievances and instances of misconduct.
Office of the Vice Chancellor
Royal University of Bhutan