On March 9, 2022, I was invited as a speaker at the Seminar on the Transformation of Digital Society in Coastal Areas at Teuku Umar University, Meulaboh, West Aceh, which is the second time I visited this campus in 2018; I was also invited to speak in one of the seminars.
I was stunned to see the transformation of UTU campus development in the last three years, under Prof. Jasman Ma’ruf, as the Rector of UTU.
When I arrived, I was immediately greeted by the Rector and his officials from the Faculty of Social and Political Sciences. The Communication Studies Program holds the Seminar. They also invited the Head of the Aceh Information and Encryption Service, Marwan Nusuf, to speak in this Seminar.
The way Prof. Jasman welcomes his guests is a bit unique. He showed the UTU campus master plan in detail and the future development program of this campus. We were greeted in a new building that was very spacious, clean, and comfortable. The concept of this campus seems to adhere to a green campus or green university system. No trees were cut down along the road leading to the New Building, except for buildings in the UTU campus infrastructure.
The Rector then explained how to get full support from the central government in Jakarta to get a large enough budget as the first step in building the UTU campus. His struggle to meet the former Vice President, Mr. Jusuf Kalla, was fascinating. He asked the former vice president for support to build a new campus with a large enough fund. At first, Mr. Jusuf Kalla was a little hesitant. Prof. Jasman said that the UTU campus was designed to develop the spirit of nationalism for the Acehnese. Various ethnic groups in Indonesia would come to this campus if the building were magnificent.
Prof. Jasman said that this campus implemented a science development strategy focusing on agriculture and marine affairs. Therefore, all faculties on this campus are required to direct scientific development strategies into the campus vision is due to the strategic position of this campus in South West Aceh, which has an agricultural area and is directly opposite the Indian Ocean, which is the potential that must be explored to develop this area in the future.
The condition of the campus in this new building is very different from the campuses I have visited in Aceh. Students walked inside the building like they were in a mall building, almost half a kilometer long. The layout of the building is superb. The cleanliness is well maintained, then the facilities show that it is a campus with a national and even international reputation—the success of UTU in continuously improving its ranking as the best campus in Indonesia. Prof. Jasman’s leap in victory for this campus is extraordinary. He was able to compete with other state universities, not only in Aceh but also in Sumatra.
The successes of academic affairs are also well illustrated on the walls on the first floor inside the building. Every visitor can witness the various achievements of the UTU academic community, both at the national and international levels.
Teuku Umar University has only been a state campus for seven years. The cohesiveness of the academic community certainly supports this extraordinary achievement. Prof. Jasman said that he applied the collegial concept as his leadership. All strategic decisions are discussed at the senate level. Even young lecturers are very enthusiastic about carrying out any academic work because the campus will give rewards if there are things that become their achievements for the good name of the campus.
Prof. Jasman’s leadership will end in June 2022. The campus master plan has not yet been fully developed in the UTU. I suspect that UTU’s achievement can be a model for establishing a new campus in Aceh or Sumatra that is just crawling from the start to become a campus of academic quality respected at the national level. Of course, the 7-year success story of UTU has become “homework” for the UTU academic community to move towards a better direction in the future.
Another unique thing was UTU’s strategy in implementing the spirit of Teuku Umar, who became an important figure for this campus. The formation of this national hero does have a proud historical value for the people of Aceh. Therefore, the UTU campus created a particular room called the hall of Fame Teuku Umar. Various things about Teuku Umar were presented in the room, including a multi-media room that narrated the story of Teuku Umar’s struggle when he led the war against the Dutch in Aceh.
In addition to a particular room as a passage of time to remember Teuku Umar, UTU also provides a unique course on Teuku Umar’s Leadership as a General Course for all students studying at this university. In addition, there is also a traditional competition held by this campus every year to remember Teuku Umar. The local people are strongly encouraged to participate in this competition. It is an appreciation for the figure of Teuku Umar and the people around the UTU campus.
The UTU model of making the figure who became the name of their campus a campus spirit is still rarely found in other Aceh or even at the national level. In Aceh, scholars and Acehnese kings are used as campuses, namely Sheikh Nurdin Ar-Raniry, Sheikh Abdur Rauf al-Singkili, Malik al-Saleh, Sheikh Hamzah Fansuri. I suspect that these campuses do not provide any courses on the names attached to their campus names, such as the UTU experience.
Finally, Prof. Jasman accompanied us to lunch at one of the stalls near campus. There we also discussed the world of education in Aceh and the economic situation of the Acehnese. I said that several years ago, at a seminar in Aceh Barat, Meulaboh would become a new area in Aceh after North Aceh ended as a petrodollar area. Prof. Jasman’s story immediately welcomed this prediction; Prof. Ibrahim Hassan, who was formerly the Governor of Aceh in the early 1980s, once said that after North Aceh became an industrial area, South West Aceh would be the future of Aceh. This is to confirm my prediction that Prof. Ibrahim Hasan, in the 1980s, will become a reality in South West Aceh, especially with the establishment of the UTU and Stain Tgk Di Rundeng. Because the presence of these two state campuses, in the beginning, was also a response to the idea of Prof. Ibrahim Hassan 30 years ago. Therefore, the process of the two private campuses becoming state campuses results from the strategic struggle of the people in West Aceh towards a better future.