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JNU defends letters to profs, says giving a chance to other faculty

In a statement, the university also said that a “motivated campaign” was being run against it using the name of one Professor Emeritus.

Written by Aranya Shankar | New Delhi |
Updated: September 5, 2019 10:46:25 am
Romila Thapar at the lecture. (Express Photo by Amit Chakravarty)

The Jawaharlal Nehru University administration Wednesday cited a “huge skew” in the number of Emeritus Professors from the social science disciplines, as well as “missed” opportunities for professors of other fields from getting the Emeritus tag, as reasons why they decided to revise the rules in this regard. The university has faced flak from various quarters for sending letters to 12 Emeritus Professors, including historian Romila Thapar, to review their status.

In a statement, the university also said that a “motivated campaign” was being run against it using the name of one Professor Emeritus.

In an Executive Council meeting last August, the administration decided that Emeritus status of professors who are aged 75 years or above will be “reviewed for continuation”.

“Currently, there are 21 Emeritus Professors in JNU — 17 from Social Sciences and Humanities and four from Sciences. One can see that there is a huge skew in earlier appointments of Emeritus Professors. A substantive number of faculty members in JNU from various disciplines too have numerous academic achievements and laurels,” JNU Registrar Pramod Kumar said in a statement.

Video | Who is Romila Thapar | Why has JNU asked for her CV?

“Many eminent faculty members who could have guided upcoming researchers in many fields have missed out in the past from being appointed as an Emeritus Professor, and the objective was to set an age limit and make the selection broad-based, so that justice is given to deserving retired faculty members,” he added.

However, JNU Teachers’ Association President Atul Sood said, “If they think that Emeritus Professor doesn’t represent the pool of disciplines in JNU… and it is a case of neglect, they can fix that by giving the title to people from the sciences. There is no cap on the number. What is the point of reviewing the work or status of those who are already Professor Emeriti?”

Former V-C Y K Alagh said “Emeritus Professors are for life… There are people who I appointed, G S Bhalla and Bipan Chandra, who died as Professor Emeritus… In no good university in the world that I know of is there a review after someone has been appointed Professor Emeritus”.

He also said there was no cap on the number of Professor Emeriti: “The only limit is that you should have outstanding people. Age is not the limit.”

Sudha Pai, who was the Rector when S K Sopory was V-C, said the number of Emeriti Professor in JNU was anyway “not large”. “In JNU, it was more an exception than the rule. You had to be exceptional,” she said.

“I’ve never heard of Emeritus status being reviewed, it’s done for life. The status is given for your past work, so why should it be reviewed?” she added.

Earlier, Thapar too had said that “since there are no requirements on either side and it is only a status, there can be as many Emeritus Professors as the University wants”.

The JNU statutes state that “the appointment of ‘Professor Emeritus’ shall be purely honorary and will carry with it no commitment for providing residential accommodation”.

If a Professor Emeritus wishes to be associated with the university they can be given office space and other academic support facilities. “The Professor Emeritus shall be free to do academic work in the School to which she/he is attached and may supervise research scholars as a co-supervisor along with a regular faculty member,” the rules state.

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