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‘Annual townhall, email-based feedback’: Ashoka University reaffirms freedom of expression in letter to students

Students at Ashoka University had called for a two-day boycott of classes starting Monday, to protest the resignation of their teachers, Pratap Bhanu Mehta and Arvind Subramanian.

By: Express Web Desk | New Delhi |
March 23, 2021 9:32:34 pm
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The Board of Trustees’ of Ashoka University Tuesday wrote to its students, saying that their concerns on the protection of free speech and the need to be heard by various decision-making bodies have been taken note of.

“The Founders are grateful to the students for today’s interaction, and would like to reiterate that they are committed to strengthening student trust which is central to the university,” a statement released by the Board of Trustees said.

The ‘student government’ at Ashoka University had called for a two-day boycott of classes starting Monday, to protest the resignation of their teachers, Pratap Bhanu Mehta and Arvind Subramanian. In a statement, the elected student body had said that the two professors’ controversial exit had eroded their trust in the university administration to protect students from “external pressures”.

The board said that based on dialogue with the varsity’s student body, the founders will be taking prompt action “to make certain structural changes that incorporate your voice”.

Apart from reaffirming their commitment to the varsity’s policy for the freedom of expression, the board also announced measures including a meeting between the student body and the governing body twice a year.

The board also announced an annual town hall with the founders “where the students can interact with them freely”. They also said an email-based feedback process for students will be set for communicating their suggestions and concerns.

“Our aim is that through this and already existing processes we will be able to ensure that Ashoka lives up to its vision of being a space for free enquiry, free expression, intellectual honesty, respect for the dignity of all human beings and openness to constructive change. All this cannot, of course, be achieved overnight. Ashoka will always be a work in progress,” the statement signed by Ashish Dhawan, Pramath Raj Sinha, Sanjeev Bikhchandani, Vineet Gupta on behalf of the Board of Trustees said.

“We seek to work together with students, staff and faculty to make Ashoka not only one of the world’s best universities but also an institution that makes a difference to the world,” it added.

The University made headlines recently following the resignation of its faculty members – Pratap Bhanu Mehta and Arvind Subramanian.

Putting on record his reason for leaving Ashoka University, Mehta had said in his resignation letter that the founders made it “abundantly clear” his association with the institution was a “political liability”. Calling the exit “ominously disturbing”, for academic freedom, Subramanian had sent in his resignation too.

The developments had led to student protests on campus; the faculty issuing a statement calling for Mehta’s return; and over 150 academicians from international universities, including Columbia, Yale, Harvard, Princeton, Oxford, and Cambridge, offering support to Mehta.

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