Responding to an offer he could not refuse,the first ever hostel warden of the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) returned to the campus after 13 years on Friday. This time,he will fill in the Vice-Chancellors shoes.
Sudhir Kumar Sopory,a plant molecular biologist,assumed office as the Vice-Chancellor of JNU on Friday. Sopory,who resigned from his position of group leader at the International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology,was a faculty member of the JNU School of Life Sciences from 1973 to 1997.
He was the first warden of Kaveri,which in turn was the first hostel of JNU. While speaking to mediapersons on Friday,he recalled the circumstances in which he was appointed. The first Vice-Chancellor,G Parthasarathy a very renowned person called me and said,I am looking for somebody who is not married. Turned out,I was the only one who was not married, he said,making the audience of the press conference,organised on Friday,roar with laughter.
Occupying a pride of place among Soporys 200 research publications and 13 edited books is the JNU Hostel Manual,which he co-authored.
Sopory took over from B B Bhattacharya at 10.30 am on Friday. He spent the rest of the morning interacting with the teaching and administrative staff.
One of his first directives was to ask the administrative staff not to hold on to any file for more than 48 hours unless absolutely necessary. We will computerise most of the work here. The administration will be very transparent. I have told the library staff to make available a list of theses submitted by students, he said.
Soporys appointment was confirmed in the last week of December,but he had to serve a months notice at the ICGEB. I have had offers from many other institutions,but have resisted them so far. But the JNU offer was something I could not refuse. I felt there was something I had to give back to it, he added.
Sopory said that though he has a few ideas for the university,he would announce them only after taking its teachers and students into confidence. I have some ideas in mind,but they will be announced over a period of time,after consultations with the deans,students and the teachers. I can have my own agenda about what I want to do,but the best thing is to develop an agenda along with the academic community, he said.
Sopory was unequivocal in his support for the restoration of the JNU Students Union. We claim that the JNU Students Union is one of its kind. We do not want to lose this uniqueness. I dont know how much is possible within the Vice-Chancellors powers,but we will do all we can to restore it. If it was in my hand,we could have held the JNUSU elections tomorrow. But it is not, he said.
Stating that taking JNU into the Top 100 universities list is his dream,Sopory said it can be achieved through more research. My efforts will be to see that there is a significant change in the quantity and quality of research output. We will see to it that all the difficulties faced by researchers and teachers are solved. I wont say that Ill try to do it,Ill say,I will do it, he said.
He also hinted at plans to encourage good teachers. We will have a system to reward good teachers some kind of a best teacher award. We will have to find ways and means of how to do that. We will also project the brightest students, he said.
In addition to building more hostels,efforts will also be made to improve the standard of living in the university premises,Sopory added.