The decision on the proposed fee hike of 5 to 7.5 per cent at Panjab University was deferred by the syndicate members in a meeting held on Saturday. Hence, for the time being, there will be no hike in fees at Panjab University.
The apex governing body at PU also approved a new Dean Student Welfare (Women), who was nominated by the Vice Chancellor Raj Kumar. However, the syndicate members rejected the candidates nominated by the VC for the position of Dean Student Welfare (Men) and Associate Dean Student Welfare. It also approved a tentative academic calendar for the coming semester.
A special committee had proposed a few hike of 5 per cent in traditional courses and 7.5 per cent in self-financed courses in March. Officials said, the proposed hike is higher in self-financed courses since they rely on the fees paid by students to run the department.
However, the proposed hike has received considerable flak from the student body, with political organisations and student leaders deeming the proposal ‘cruel’ and ‘insensitive’, given the current circumstances. “There have been job losses and salary cuts. Students from economically weaker families and working class families have barely been able to survive, let alone prepare to pay a hiked fee from the next semester,” says Hassanpreet, a student leader and member of the political organisation, Students For Society.
Over the years, fee hikes have been a contentious issue for the students and the varsity’s student political parties.
Students have time and again protested against hiked fees in an attempt to maintain an inclusive and accessible campus environment at the public university. Over the issue of fee hike, violent agitations had erupted on the PU campus in 2017.
“This time, it is even worse due to the lockdown. Amid all the hardships, even planning to discuss a fee hike is cruel and insensitive on part of the administration. I know so many students whose parents are struggling to make ends meet, and here they are planning to increase the fees!” says Abhilash Rajhkhowa, President of Students Federation of India (SFI) at PU. The SFI also conducted a poll for the student body, where 78 per cent of the total 4,000 respondents said that they were against the proposed fee hike.
Meanwhile, the term of the current DSW (Men and Women) and the Associate Dean Student Welfare is scheduled to end on May 31. Following a discussion regarding the appointment of new DSWs, the VC’s nominee for the role of DSW (Women), Professor Sukhbir Singh from the Department of Zoology was approved by the syndicate members.
However, his nominee for DSW (Men), Prof Devinder Singh, and Associate DSW, Prof Ashok Kumar, were both rejected by the syndicate members.
The VC will now nominate two new candidates for the positions in a meeting scheduled for June 27. He will also give the interim charge of DSW (Men) to a candidate of his choice. According to a member of the syndicate, the VC is likely to give the interim charge to Prof Devinder Singh. Moreover, if a new DSW (Men) is not appointed by June 27, the interim charge will de facto be given to Dean University Instruction Professor RK Singla.
The tentative academic calendar approved by the syndicate members include dates for the exams connected to the previous semester scheduled for July. The classes for the next semester are likely to begin in August. “As we know it, this is subject to change and it is the VC’s discretion to update this schedule as and when required in accordance with the circumstances around the lockdown,” said a member of the syndicate. Members also discussed tentative guidelines for safety of staff and students when the university resumes classes. No concrete Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) for this has been formalised by the varsity yet, however, the VC is likely to soon form a committee to formulate the SOP.
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