Scheduled to start from October 9, a month-long refresher course offered by JNU’s Centre for Women’s Studies (CWS) since last year will now be coordinated by a faculty member from the Centre for European Studies. The development comes days after the UGC’s Human Resource Development Centre (HRDC) Director asked CWS if it could conduct the refresher course, provided “some resource persons were not invited”.
“On September 29, I received a call from the HRDC Director Atul Johri. He said some speakers should not be called. The programme’s academic content is conducted by the centre. Last year, 56 teachers from across the country participated and the feedback we got was excellent,” said Lata Singh, CWS chairperson. Raising concerns about academic autonomy, Singh said, “The coordination of any refresher course is done by the department of that discipline. Otherwise, how can you determine who will be the academic expert in the area?”
Responding to the allegations, Johri said the refresher course was an “interdisciplinary one for women’s studies”. “There are two kinds of courses. The first is specific to a discipline and teachers working in the area can offer it. The other is an interdisciplinary course. HRDC is an independent body; it is not necessary for us to call anyone from that centre to conduct the course,” he said.
He added that “a lot of candidates who had participated in the course last year had objected to” certain speakers. According to JNUTA, the “course is now being coordinated by a faculty member from the Centre for European Studies in the School of International Studies”.
“There are 162 women’s studies centres in the country… The last few months have seen numerous reports of funding being withdrawn for the centres supported by UGC as part of its XIIth Plan schemes. Like in other universities, the JNU CWS has fought a long battle to get to be a Centre of the University. To bypass it entirely is to attempt to try and eject it from the academic space itself,”Ayesha Kidwai, JNUTA president, said.