JNUTA Lists Concerns Over ‘Systemic Destruction’ of University

New Delhi: On March 1, members of the Jawaharlal Nehru University Teacher’s Association (JNUTA) gathered at the Press Club of India to list out their concerns with regard to what they call “systemic destruction” of the university over the past four years.

In a detailed press statement, the association talks about the delay in the appointment of the university’s new vice chancellor – the previous VC’s tenure ended on January 26, 2021 – 150 legal cases against the university, outsourcing of admissions to the National Testing Agency (NTA), changes in financial allocation and academics coming under attack for raising their voice against the various issues plaguing the university.

“This destruction is unsustainably dangerous for a public university that has consistently ranked first in the country, even by the government’s own estimates,” reads the statement.

VC’s appointment

The previous VC, M. Jagadesh Kumar, was supposed to end his tenure on January 26, 2020. However, he continues to hold the position in the office. According to JNUTA members, although such delays are common, any further deference would only harm the credibility of the institution.

According to The Telegraph, the President, who is the Visitor of the university, had appointed a three-member search panel for a new vice-chancellor but it has not met even once.

Keeping these issues in view, JNUTA, in their press statement have appealed to the Ministry of Education to speed up the process of the VC’s appointment.

Lack of autonomy

Over the past four years, the administrative body of the university – which includes the academic and the executive council – have repeatedly talked about the undemocratic process with which the VC has been taking important decisions without taking into account the opinions held by the two councils.

Despite JNUTA’s rigorous campaigns against the councils’ lack of autonomy, the VC continued to remain at the centre of all the important decisions. As a result of the which, JNUTA’s statement says, there has been over 150 legal cases filed against the university by the faculty, students and staff. The cases include “arbitrary appointment of chairpersons of centres and deans of schools”, “introduction of new programmes and schools without prior deliberations” and so on.

NTA’s full control

In 2019, the university had outsourced the responsibility of hosting online examinations to the NTA – a government of India agency that conducts examinations in higher educational institutions. However, according to the JNUTA statement, in 2020, the agency assumed complete control of the whole examination process, which includes preparation of question papers, declaration of results and so on.

According to Newslaundry, students complained about various irregularities during the entrance examinations conducted by the NTA in October last year for admissions in MA, M.Phil and PhD courses. According to the website’s report, some students spoke about finding incorrect answer keys while others complained about the change in the format of the question paper.

Furthermore, the JNUTA statement highlights that due to the NTA, the university has had to considerably spend a lot on the admission process in comparison to the previous years.

Cut back on academic expenditure

Over the past couple of years, the university has significantly cut back on the financial allocation, coupled with sharp decline in the grants issued by the University Grants Commission, reads the JNUTA statement. Additionally, there has been a considerable rise in the legal expenses of the university due to the number of cases filed against the university since 2016, according to a report by the Indian Express.

“The financial reports of the last three years show that annual academic expenses decreased by 26.38% from Rs 38.36 crore in 2017-18 to Rs 28.24 crore in 2018-19, and by another 30% to Rs 19.74 crore in 2019-20,” says the JNUTA statement.

Attack on faculty members

Since 2016, faculty members has constantly been under attack by the VC himself, alleges the JNUTA. From the “denying promotions and leave”, “debarring faculty members from participation in statutory bodies”, “refusal to grant extraordinary leave to certain faculty to pursue research abroad” and “stopping pensions for faculty members post their retirement”.

“Recently, when eight professors of the School of Physical Sciences went public with the irregularities in faculty appointments that had taken place, one of them who is on the verge of retirement had his laboratory ransacked and his equipment destroyed,” says the JNUTA statement.

Hence, in view of these issues, the JNUTA has appealed to the government of India to speed up the process of the appointment of a new VC to avoid any further damage to the stature of the university.

Featured image credit: PTI