Deans and chairpersons of Centres at Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), who have opposed the university administration’s decision to implement compulsory attendance, could face action including removal from their posts, it is learnt. JNU’s Executive Council (EC) Tuesday decided to set up an inquiry committee against department heads who have written to the administration against compulsory attendance, sources said.
“Chairpersons and Deans are supposed to be part of the administrative structure. Teachers and students have every right to democratically protest any issue but if Chairpersons and Deans begin to oppose in writing, it goes against the grain of administration. Therefore, it was decided in the EC that the best way was to institute an inquiry committee to find out why such writings are coming from a handful of Chairpersons and Deans so that steps can be taken,” a senior administration official told The Indian Express.
Sources said the number of Deans and Chairpersons who have opposed the move was “not more than seven”. JNU comprises 13 Deans and 38 Chairpersons, along with five Chairpersons of Special Centres. The decision to introduce minimum attendance of 75 per cent in JNU has been a point of contention since it was announced in December last year. Protesting the decision, student and teacher unions have been holding open-air classes since mid-February.
The official also confirmed the university was considering removing department heads from posts. “If somebody says they cannot implement a rule, they are defying authority. The EC had decided compulsory attendance will be implemented, so not implementing it is problematic… If I was the Chair, I better quit rather than say that I will not implement it,” the official said.
The three-member inquiry committee comprises Dean of the School of Biotechnology, Pawan K Dhar, Dean of the School of Sanskrit and Indic Studies, Girish Nath Jha and Dean of the School of Social Sciences, Pradipta K Chaudhury, sources said. Five EC members had dissented against the decision.
“The ground reality is such that the VC might act on it (removal) very soon. He was convincing the EC to use his discretionary power to remove the Deans and Chairpersons to appoint his own people wherever there is non-compliance. We have followed the seniority principle for the appointment of Deans, but he said the statutes don’t mention anything like that, which means he can appoint whoever he likes,” said an EC member.
The JNU Teachers’ Association (JNUTA) said the EC’s decision was “unfortunate”. “Tomorrow we will hold a JNUTA EC meeting and decide the next course of action. But this is very unfortunate because we were tried to chalk these issues out through mutual understanding. We had appealed that there be an Academic Council meeting before the EC ratifies any such decision on attendance or transferring of teaching positions arbitrarily,” said JNUTA secretary Sudhir Kumar Suthar.
Sucheta Mahajan, Chairperson of the Centre for Historical Studies, said she had written to the VC expressing “concern” over the system but was yet to get a reply. “I hope that the JNU administration will not go so far (as to remove). We are the interface between faculty members and the administration so we represent the views of the faculty to the administration. I see no reason why there should be a threat to the position of Chairpersons and Deans because they are only representatives of the faculty,” she said.