Ashoka University acknowledges lapses in statement on prof resignations

The joint statement also adds that Pratap Bhanu Mehta and Arvind Subramanian will be “available for advice and consultation to the University in the future”.
Pratap Bhanu Mehta and Arvind Subramanian
Pratap Bhanu Mehta and Arvind Subramanian
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A few days after controversy broke out over the resignation of Pratap Bhanu Mehta and Arvind Subramanian as consulting professors from Ashoka University, the Chancellor, Vice-Chancellor and the Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the university have expressed their regret in a joint statement. Political commentator Pratap Bhanu Mehta and economist Arvind Subramanian resigned as consulting professors from the university located in Sonipat in Haryana. Their departure from the private liberal arts and sciences universities in the country shocked many. In addition to protests from those in the University, their exit also caused a politician stir with the Congress questioning BJP’s hand in the matter.

The university in its statement has acknowledged “lapses in institutional processes”, and said that they would work to rectify in consultation with all stakeholders. “This will reaffirm our commitment to academic autonomy and freedom which have always been at the core of the Ashoka University ideals,” said the statement.

The joint statement also adds that the professors would be “available for advice and consultation to the University in the future”.

In his resignation letter that surfaced on Thursday, Pratap Bhanu Mehta, who is known for speaking out against the BJP-led Union government, had said that he was making the decision in the interests of the university. “My public writing in support of a politics that tries to honour constitutional values of freedom and equal respect for all citizens, is perceived to carry risks for the university. In the interests of the University, I resign,” he had written. Pratap was first the Vice-Chancellor and then worked as a senior faculty at Ashoka.

Two days after Mehta's resignation, Arvind Subramanian, former chief economic advisor, who had joined Ashoka University as a professor in the Department of Economics in July 2020, also resigned. Arvind had written in his letter that Pratap’s resignation “devastated” him.

“…That someone of such integrity and eminence, who embodied the vision underlying Ashoka, felt compelled to leave is troubling. That even Ashoka – with its private status and backing by private capital – can no longer provide a space for academic expression and freedom is ominously disturbing. Above all, that the University’s commitment to fight for and sustain the Ashoka vision is now open to question makes it difficult for me to continue being part of Ashoka,” Arvind Subramanian wrote.

In their recent joint-statement, the members have acknowledged both Pratap and Arvind’s roles in the University’s success.

“Pratap has worked closely with the faculty and founders over the years to take the University into a position of being rightly acknowledged as a great centre of learning, teaching and research. Arvind brought eminence, stature, fresh ideas and energy to the University. He is one of the premier thinkers about the Indian and the global economy. He leaves a void that will be hard to fill,” reads their statement.

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