It was last year, on January 27 that M Jagadesh Kumar, a professor from IIT-Delhi took over as the Vice Chancellor of Jawaharlal Nehru University. In just one year, the university has hit the headlines for various controversies — the February 9 event, and the disappearance of Najeeb Ahmad being the major ones. In an email interview with The Indian Express, V-C Kumar talks about the turbulent year and plans for the future.
What’s the one major challenge before you as Vice Chancellor/administrator?
As JNU is well-known for its academic excellence, the challenge is to move to the next level and become more socially relevant.
The February 9 incident happened almost as soon as you took over and you faced criticism. Do you think the issue could have been handled at an internal level, without involving the police?
We considered the February 9 incident as an internal issue and we dealt with it in a similar way. We are capable of facing our internal challenges without any interference.
In the Najeeb Ahmad issue, one of the major bones of contention was the administration not registering an FIR in the alleged scuffle between Najeeb and the ABVP activists. Do you think doing so would have addressed concerns that the administration was not taking the matter seriously?
The administration sent a complaint to police about the absence of Najeeb. We frequently posted the progress in this case on JNU website. We are still regularly in touch with police.
The administration recently invoked a JNU statute to ban events at the administrative block. Why?
The university functioning is governed by its statutes, regulations and rules. All sections of the university community must respect and follow them.
Two proctors have resigned since you took over. You have also been accused of changing the Chief Proctor’s report on the punishment given to ABVP activists for assaulting Najeeb. How do you respond to this?
The administration works as a team through0 consultations and takes a collective decision. Faculty members holding administrative positions may choose to not be part of administration at different times and focus on other pursuits. We respect that since being part of the administration is voluntary.
In the last year we have seen a large number of notices being served to students and teachers. Would you agree this is more than usual?
If rules are violated by anyone in the university, it is the responsibility of the administration to remind and request them to follow rules.
How will the coming years be different from this year?
Using technology, we need to make our education more accessible to a larger number of students who otherwise could not come to JNU. We also plan to expand our academic programmes and admit more students. We will be constructing more hostels and new research facilities. We have also taken up a special drive to fill up the faculty vacancies reserved for PwD and SC/ST categories.
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