At the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), the latest point of conflict between the administration, and teachers and students, has been a recently held Academic Council (AC) meeting on Monday, resulting in eight students being suspended for disruption and a statement by 20 AC members expressing shock at the way the meeting was held. At the root of all this are three issues which teachers say will “change the character of JNU”.
‘Manipulation’ of minutes
The biggest allegation by teachers and AC members is that the Academic Council did not pass many agenda items, which the administration in a press release said were passed. They said minutes were “manipulated at all levels” and that the AC didn’t even discuss the passed items, let alone clearing them.
“In the middle of the AC meeting (Part-B), where only 40-45 people were attending, more than half objected to what was happening, The VC just asked the Registrar to read the agenda items, declared them passed, got up and left. Among them is the issue of ordinances – which he claimed were passed in the last AC meeting in October. Many AC had written to him saying we didn’t discuss or let alone passing it. Similarly, they put forward minutes of a Standing Committee meeting, saying there was a consensus, but some of these members said there was no consensus. Minutes are being manipulated at all levels,” said Professor Jayati Ghosh.
The university has however, maintained that the “remaining agenda items” from Part A of the AC meeting held on December 23 were “discussed and approved”.
VC gives himself powers to make changes to selection committee
One of the many resolutions supposedly ‘passed’ by the AC in the meeting this time was giving the VC powers to intervene in nominating experts for the selection committee that appoints professors.
Explaining this, a university official said, “In 1997, the AC gave the authority to VC to nominate any expert to the selection committee. All VCs across India have the discretionary to nominate one or two members to the selection committee.”
Rejecting this, an AC member said, “In 1997, the authorisation was for that specific panel and not a perpetual authorisation. Secondly, after 1997, there have been UGC regulations passed by JNU AC, which lay down the procedure for how Selection Committees have to be constituted. These clearly state that the VC has to select the panel from the list of experts approved by the AC.”
Ghosh also said such a move would “give too much power to the office of the VC”. “Centres are the best people to decide who has domain knowledge in their subject. How does the VC know about the domain knowledge of all the different subjects? We give a large list of names, and he’s still empowered to choose from that list, but to give himself the power to add names is unacceptable. It’s not like we’re give one or two names; we provide about a 100 names,” she said.
MPhil/PhD admissions only on the basis of interview
While JNU as of now gives 70 per cent weightage to written exams, and 30 percent weightage to interview, the UGC gazette notification of May 2016, which the AC supposedly adopted, makes interview the sole criterion by making entrances just a qualifying exam. Students need 50 percent to sit for the entrance. Teachers say this “undoes” everything JNU stands for in terms of social justice and opens up “possibilities of discrimination”.
“There are considerable and systematic disparities in viva-voce marks of some centres/schools. If implemented, this would mean an end to all affirmative action in MPhil/PhD programmes. No reserved category candidates would qualify and no one will be selected, since there is a standard 50 per cent requirement across categories,” an AC member said.
“In fact, it is strange that, in Part A of the meeting, they spent over four hours discussing reduction of viva marks, and in Part B, they approved the acceptance of UGC notification. As a result, Part B decision, if accepted, would make everything decided in Part A, null and void,” the member added.
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