Rajendra Shinde, who heads the Botany department at St Xavier’s College, Mumbai, is set to become the first non-Christian principal of the college. In September, Shinde will take charge of the college that turns 150 this year. Shinde talks to Priyanka Sahoo about the institute’s mission of more inclusivity and his vision for the college.
It took St Xavier’s 150 years to get a non-Jesuit and non-Christian principal. Now, that we have one, does this mean more inclusion?
Well I suppose they were following their ethos all these years. It is their diktat as per their constitution to have a Jesuit principal but if you look at the situation and the current scenario, they have been opening up slowly. So probably this is the right time as it is the 150th year. Also our vision has changed, we had a new rector and new activities in the month of April and the college has come up with a new vision and mission. In that, inclusion is one of the missions. So probably with that in mind they have opened it up and if they had had a good Catholic candidate, they would have probably appointed a Catholic candidate.
As you move into your new position, what is your vision for the college? It is an iconic college and what do you plan to bring to the table?
I have a lot of things planned. I feel that we have become complacent in different activities like discipline, administration, research. People feel we have reached the top so let us stop here. So I will have to reignite that fire again. I have a lot of courses in my mind because if we are planning on starting a university, as per RUSA’s request (we are on the waitlist), we should be prepared for that as it may come up in two or three years. At present we are basically an undergraduate college, so we need to have post-graduate courses. We currently have only five departments in Science with PG courses. We will have to expand these programmes.
How do you plan to promote research on campus?
I would like to promote our young faculty because almost 14-15 faculty members have retired in the past two years. These places have been taken up by quite a young faculty and I have to promote them and make the facilities available, get the lab recognitions as some of the labs are not recognised. We need to encourage the youngsters to do PhD research. There are many who are qualified but not interested. We need to encourage them to take up research guideship. Also we will have to look at the funding from various grants. Our UG students do research-based programmes as an offshoot of our programme with the central government’s department of biotechnology. But this happens in some departments. We need to have this across the college.
Although Xavier’s is the only college from Mumbai to make it to the top 100 colleges in the National Institute Ranking Framework (NIRF), the rank has dropped from last year. How will you address that?
I happen to be the NIRF coordinator for both the years. People have not yet understood the NIRF clearly. The process is different. The NIRF is looking at publications indexed in Scopus. So those kind of quality publications will take some time for us to come up with. You must remember, we are an undergraduate college. So if we work on that probably, we will reach higher ranks.
What can students expect from you as the principal?
I would expect them to be disciplined first. I am sure they will get annoyed with me on this. There’s a lot of discipline required. Both learning and studying and other activities are important. Xavier’s is known for its student activities. So if they want to enjoy these things, they should also concentrate on studies, take every opportunity provided to them in academics. We are giving them a number of opportunities in academics as well. I would appeal to everyone to work with me and cooperate to take our college ahead.