The governing Council of TERI will meet again on Friday to “revisit decisions” taken earlier this week amidst outrage over its move to appoint R K Pachauri as the Executive Vice Chairman of the think tank.
According to sources, the mounting criticism could force a rethink as some Council members are keen on controlling damage caused to TERI’s image.
The decision to hold yet another meeting of TERI’s highest decision-making body was taken as Pachauri proceeded on leave from TERI University on Thursday after a group of students refused to accept degrees awarded by him at the convocation ceremony scheduled on March 7.
Pachauri, who is the Chancellor of University supported by TERI, is accused of sexually harassing a junior colleague, who later quit the think tank last year. He is currently out on bail.
The university’s acting vice chancellor (V-C) Rajiv Seth said that Pachauri communicated his decision to go on leave on Thursday morning. Leena Srivastav, Seth added, will act as his stand-in during the convocation ceremony.
Srivastav is the university’s V-C who has been on a sabbatical for the last few months. Seth is holding charge till she rejoins.
The acting V-C, however, could not specify the exact period of Pachauri’s leave and whether he would rejoin as Chancellor after March 7. He also did not wish to comment on the allegations of sexual harassment against Pachauri.
The development has come in wake of 19 students, who completed their course at the university last year, writing to Seth on Wednesday condemning TERI Governing Council’s decision to “elevate” Pachauri to the position of Executive Vice Chairman even though he stands accused of sexually harassing a junior colleague.
As outrage mounted, another former TERI employee stepped forward on Wednesday to level similar allegations.
“We would like to make it clear that we are not in a position to accept our degrees from Pachauri at convocation,” the former students from MSc, MTech, MA and MBA courses wrote in a letter addressed to Seth with copies sent to the university’s board of management and academic council.
“We reiterate the trajectory that the university is taking is dangerous and grossly inconsiderate, and as alumni, we sincerely hope that Teri University’s board of management seriously re-evaluates Pachauri’s continuing role as chancellor…,” the letter added.
Seth told The Indian Express that two out of the 19 students withdrew their names on Thursday morning and agreed to participate in the convocation. The remaining will be formally informed of Pachauri’s decision once the university’s Board of Management is intimated on Friday.
Although the agenda for the Board meeting was decided much before the student protest, Seth said the points raised by the students could come up for discussion during the meeting.
Meanwhile, two days after he was appointed as the Executive Vice Chairman at TERI by its Governing Council, Pachauri’s new role and responsibilities remained unclear. Council member Deepak Parekh, chairman, HDFC, told The Indian Express, “This (Pachauri’s new responsibilities) wasn’t decided (by the GC on Tuesday). Please wait for a day. We will issue a press release on this issue tomorrow.”
Responding to a questionnaire seeking clarity on Pachauri’s new salary and responsibilities as Executive Vice Chairman, a TERI spokesperson stated, “The Governing Council has appointed Ajay Mathur as DG, TERI with full executive powers to run the organisation. Dr Pachauri’s role is to ensure a smooth transition to the new DG. The Governing Council is meeting again tomorrow and will issue a detailed statement on the roles, responsibilities and leadership at TERI. Till then we urge you to avoid any speculation on the matter.”
This issue was also raised during a meeting of senior employees held by TERI’s new director-general on Thursday. Sources said Mathur sought feedback from colleagues on the controversy to which some employees said that the institution should clarify the roles and responsibilities undertaken by Mathur and Pachauri after GC’s decision to move the latter to a new position.
“Mathur did not have a clear answer but said that Pachauri will be looking after the establishment of TERI’s new campuses. He, however, added a rider saying that he was just three-days old in his new role and was holding a meeting only to seek feedback and not take decisions,” said a source who did not wish to be identified.
Mathur is learnt to have also spoken to the GC members on Thursday.
According to sources, Pachauri, during the GC meeting on Tuesday had sought control over appointment and transfer of TERI employees. While Parekh and Mathur are learnt to have opposed this, other members of the Council did not say anything. The final decision on this was put off till the next GC meeting.
Pachauri and Mathur could not be reached for comment.