By Mahadhir bin Monihuldin
A few weeks ago, members of the International Islamic University Malaysia (IIUM) and University of Malaya (UM) had a small squabble with each other when an online news portal reported that UM was the first university in the country to have a student-run law journal publisher.
This, however, was refuted by lawyers who were former students from IIUM saying it was they who were the first publishers of a student-run law journal in Malaysia called ‘Law Majalla’.
Eventually, the editorial team at the University of Malaya’s Law Review went on to acknowledge that it was IIUM who came out with a student law journal before them.
A very commendable title to hold indeed. However, as of now, the Law Majalla had ceased to exist in the campus and had stopped its publication since 2002.
The question is, why did such a reputable journal entirely run by AIKOL students stopped operating for good? IIUMToday was able to speak to a well-known former member of the Law Majalla, Assoc. Prof. Dr. Shahrul Mizan.
“Law Majalla has stopped publishing mainly because of funding. Getting new and continuous sponsorship was hard,” Dr. Shahrul shared with us.
Aside from funding, he pointed out that another reason was “inconsistency in the number of new recruits among the juniors”. He said many either left the group or just failed to finish their research before they graduated.
Members had little to no research and writing experience at all which proved to be strenuous. Also, to make the job that much more daunting, the members were required to do extensive research without the miraculous help of the Internet.
The internet was still in its adolescent phase at the time so the only option for them was to brace themselves for piles and piles of book before writing on a legal topic. Even after everything has been written, there was still one last hurdle to pass – editing.
“The most challenging and ‘tormenting’ part is when your article is ‘butchered’ by the editor in chief and your content advisor (back then, we had a system of at least one lecturer supervising each student writer).
There were so many corrections that needed to be done,” Dr. Shahrul said.
It’s fairly clear that the experience of managing a student-run journal is not for the faint of hearts. But despite that, Dr. Shahrul had nothing but genuine appreciation for the experience he went through with Law Majalla.
“It was really a rewarding experience for me. It contributed a lot in making me who I am today. Much of the things that I learned during that time has put me ahead of my peers in terms of my resilience, maturity and skills. But I did not realise that until after I graduated.”
Dr. Shahrul and his team had to think of everything from finding money for sustenance, persuading the faculty to give them an office to work in, motivating and re-motivating themselves again and again to complete their research articles, recruiting new members, learning new skills which include legal researching, legal writing, editing, formatting, graphic design, marketing, all these while having to juggle between assignments and exams.
“It was really a very busy time for us. Not only did we obtain legal skills, but also many soft skills. By the time we graduated, we were very prepared for the working world.”
Asked whether the law journal should be brought back to the university’s law faculty so that students can reap its benefits from the experience once again, Dr. Shahrul had this to say:
“Very much so that it should be brought back. When I was appointed the Deputy Dean of Students Affairs in AIKOL last two years, I had managed to revive the project all over again. Alhamdulillah, the students were very keen to do it. Money was also not a problem since we managed to get some allocations from the Kulliyyah. We proceeded all the way to the drafting phase and even appointed lecturers to supervise each article. It was going on okay.”
Indeed, it was going on smoothly, until of course, Dr. Shahrul was transferred to Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM).
“When I moved to UKM, I left the project and have no information what became of it from there,” he stated.
The exposure that came from having a student law journal in the shores of AIKOL, based on Dr. Shahrul’s personal experience, sounded like a very valuable initiative for law students to partake in. It was felt that for the betterment of IIUM, such an idea should be considered. ***