Take a bow – academic staff of Colombo University, Law Faculty
This is not a mere paper article. To be honest, one can say, this is
a letter of gratitude. As we all know, currently, a non-academic strike
is underway in all the universities in our country. According to Sri
Lanka's Inter University Trade Unions Federation, this strike has been
called islandwide to force government to rectify the salary anomalies
that have been there for a long now. And, they have vowed not to suspend
the strike until their demands are granted.
Though the right to strike is not in black and white in our law
books, it is impliedly accepted in our jurisdiction from the respective
statutes (constitution, Industrial Dispute Act etc.) and from the line
of cases heard in the superior courts. Therefore, the trade union action
has a good legal pedigree, at a glance, as long as they do not come
under essential services. Albeit, one question always hangs over their
heads like the sword of Damocles, from a moral point of view. The writer
himself was inspired by the above point of view to pen down this
article, as a result of an incident which has struck his mind in the
light of this on-going work stoppage.
We are having our final exams of Laws at this moment of writing.
Students attend to their exams as usual as previous occasions.
The exam hall is well-prepared for this. We are given question papers
in the same way as previous years. Apparently, exam runs smoothly as
normal as before. But, one thing is missing. That is the non-academic
staff who were in full attendance on other occasions. In this absence, I
suspect, would anyone accept as true that Faculty of Law is conducting
her final year exams notwithstanding any elbow grease by the
non-academic staff. This is the reason that motivated me to praise our
academic staff from the bottom of my heart.
Would you ever believe that a Dean of a faculty is present himself
early in the morning to do the job of opening the doors of the exam
hall, which under normal circumstances is a duty exclusively set aside
to non-academic staff in a university.
However, I have heard that Professor Timothy Endicott, Professor of
Legal Philosophy and Dean at the University of Oxford used to be present
himself in the university as earliest in the day and he himself opened
up some halls as no one was around to do the job at that time.
Nevertheless, in Sri Lanka, it is rare to see that university lecturers
prepare desks and chairs and work hard to make exam hall fit for the
examination needs, as we got the luxury of non-academic staff to do such
We never expect from university teachers, including learned Doctors
and professors, to conduct students’ exams from the work of unlocking
the exam hall to holding and bringing the exam materials to the exam
As I know, university teachers have not endorsed the seal on empty
papers and do some manual jobs at any cost. But all these happen in Sri
Lanka; not in England - at the Faculty of Law, University of Colombo.
This is the fact that must be admired!
There is a Russian proverb which says, “in doing what we ought, we
deserve no praise”. Here, the endeavour that has been made by these
lecturers ought not be done by them. Therefore, you deserve the praise,
honoured teachers. It is not a surprise to claim seventh place in the
Asian region by this Faculty passing all other universities in the
country at this commitment. Moreover, the most praiseworthy factor is,
these same university teachers are doing honorary work that should have
been done by the non-academic staff.
They had ample chances to shrug their shoulders and turn back to this
kind of non-academic duties as their counterparts in other universities
do. But, they did not hold that stance.
This exemplary gesture by the academic staff of the Colombo Law
Faculty is a good example to all others to follow in the future, whether
academic or not.
Even in this moment, the main library is closed in the Colombo
University inflicting immense hardships on students. All other sister
faculties are not functioning on account of non-academics’ demands.
Moreover, all most all the universities in the country are at a
standstill and students are at home due to the strike.
The only institution going against the tide is the Faculty of Law,
University of Colombo. This is one of the virtues that students expect
from their mentors - teachers. In this context, it is noteworthy to say
one occurrence that happened in Harvard Law School long-ago.
There was a rare academic-staff strike had been called and which was
led by renowned Professor at Harvard, Derrick Bell. Fighting against
race discrimination in the appointments of the Law School brought about
this strike and which was totally a humanitarian issue. This sort of
instances shows us how the scholars in the universities can contribute
something more in their fields just like Colombo Law Faculty does at
present, rather than being labeled as armchair academics.
There is a Latin phrase, “ars longa, vita brevis”. The English
meaning of it is, “art is long, life is short”. If I simplify it more,
it means, more you advance knowledge, that knowledge will never leave
you though life perishes.
As academics who achieved eminence due to free education in this
country, I believe they all have a solemn duty to bequeath knowledge to
This solemn duty has been gracefully practised by lecturers of the
Faculty of Law in spite of all odds. Thus, I would like to say to you,
all dear lecturers of the Faculty of Law, on behalf of all
undergraduates of the country, Bravo…!
The writer is a Final Year Student of the Faculty of Law, Colombo