A notice that announces a university in Lahore taking disciplinary action, including expulsion, towards students for posting “defamatory memes” about the institute on a Facebook group has gone viral online. Now, students and netizens are protesting on social media against the educational facility and the "severe" punishment.
On June 28, it came to light that the National University of Computer and Emerging Sciences (NUCES), also commonly known as the Foundation for Advancement of Science and Technology (FAST) Lahore has threatened and punished students over making and posting memes about the facility and its staff.
The institute’s administration issued a notice demanding a written apology from the students who posted “defamatory memes” on Facebook. The notice also directed students to issue an apology on their Facebook timelines.
It was also reported that the administration threatened to report the students' actions as cyberbullying and harassment under the Cyber Crime laws in Pakistan.
The notice included names of the students involved and individual punishments for each of them. The penalties included expulsion of some, grades being decreased and community service hours.
As soon the incident was brought to light, the university faced severe backlash from students and netizens. The hashtag #ShameOnFAST became one of the top trends on Twitter in Pakistan.
Tweep @CasualRao shared screenshots of the notice and wrote: “FAST Lahore has taken disciplinary action against their students for making memes and even expelled some.”
Facebook user Shah Murad posted: “Shameful. Nobody can control what we post on our social media. How is posting memes on Facebook related to our grades? We're in the middle of a pandemic, have countless other problems to take care of but all they care about is memes…”
Twitter user and journalist Ali Moeen Nawazish, @am_nawazish, wrote: “Universities are supposed to be beacons of free speech and thought. At Cambridge there were protests against university policies, people posted on social media and none of their grades were downgraded. What is wrong with FAST! Don’t reduce their grades!”
Students were quick to ask Nawazish for “support”.
User @SrHassan9 wrote: “Thanks for standing with us sir! #shameonfast #togetheragainstmafia”
Twitter user @zain_manutd shared a screenshot of a post apparently made by a student and wrote: “This so unfair. Can't imagine the pain these students are dealing with #ShameOnFAST.”
In the screenshotted post, the student, Muhammad Anas Bhatti, asked: “I posted around 5-6 memes in a private group. Do I deserve this punishment, which will cost me around 1.5 lakh (Dh3,273) and one whole year?”
The university has not yet issued a public statement regarding the matter.