As more vice chancellors get mired in controversy, higher education suffers

The devastating truth is that higher education is at stake with charges of corruption and maladministration against vice chancellors who must be our torchbearers.
As more vice chancellors get mired in controversy, higher education suffers
As more vice chancellors get mired in controversy, higher education suffers
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By Deepa Velayutham

The agenda on the development of education has been an important concern since Independence. There have been several policies and programmes formulated for improving the existing scenario on education by the government of India. The University Grants Commission was established in 1948-49, the Secondary Education Commission in 1952-53, the Education Commission in 1964-66 and the National Education Commission on Teachers I & II in 1983-85. The National Policy on Education was formed in 1986 and later modified in 1992.

Since the modification of the National Policy on Education, there have been many innovative transformations in the social context of education. And the New Education Policy, 2016 aims at addressing the unfinished targets of the earlier education policies while envisaging the rising challenges along with the development of the nation.

The process of education has expanded from the spatial realm of the classroom to electronic and print media resources, e- books and e-journals, and various forms of non-institutionalised sources of knowledge. The new Education Policy is charted out with such laudable goals and strategies to smoothly integrate with multiple agencies between education and other departments in this digital era of information growth.

Though every policy is charted out with such ambitious plans and goals, the devastating truth today is that higher education is at stake with charges of corruption and maladministration against vice chancellors, who must be the torchbearers to work towards these goals.

Escalating corruption

A study of the escalating rate of corrupt vice chancellors highlights the deteriorating standards in higher education.

The recent arrest of the Vice Chancellor of Bharathiar University in Coimbatore, A Ganapathi, is the latest to be in limelight as far as corruption charges are concerned. But it cannot be dismissed as just one of the corruption cases in the overall moral fabric of the country. The offices of the former Vice Chancellor of the Tamil Nadu Agricultural University, P Murugesa Boopathi, were searched by the Directorate of Vigilance and Anti-Corruption in 2016, and he was presented before the special court for Vigilance and Anti-Corruption Cases.

The Lucknow Bench of the Allahabad High Court had recently summoned the Vice Chancellor of Babasaheb Bhimrao Ambedkar University in Lucknow, Prof Ranveer Chandra Sobti, on the issue of corruption in teacher appointments.

The former Vice Chancellor of the Vidyasagar University in West Bengal, Swapan Kumar Pramanik, was charged with misappropriation of UGC funds in 2012. Reports published in the media addressing him as ‘Leftist Vice Chancellor’ speak volumes of his political affiliations. Since political interference is an important determinant in the appointments of Vice Chancellors, it becomes an opportunity to either exploit or retaliate, on occupying the most coveted chair in academia.

The Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) had labelled Pondicherry University as one of the ‘non-performing’ universities as a result of the university functioning without a Vice Chancellor. Chandra Krishnamurthy was dismissed from the post of Vice Chancellor of the university in 2016 after a UGC committee found her guilty of plagiarism and misrepresentation.

An enthusiastic researcher, even after clearing the National Eligibility Test for Lectureship, is compelled to feel worthless after years of hardship and dedication, because most state-run colleges do not pay UGC scales for teaching. The advertisements for permanent posts do not offer any assurance that her/his achievements, hard work and performing well at the interview will pay off.

No more is political influence, caste, community, nepotism or the rates for posts in colleges and universities spoken about in hushed tones. This parlance has become the ‘normative’ narrative of procedures for selection for posts. This situation not only dampens the spirit of those desiring to be in the teaching community but also increases corporate slavery.

Administrative problems

While this is the repulsive reality of the administrative and employment scenarios in some of the state-run colleges and universities, almost half the teachers in some of the colleges affiliated with the University of Delhi are employed on an ad-hoc basis. This rampant method of adhocism for about a decade is a crucial issue in the groves of academe.

For permanent teachers, the problem lies in the university’s postponement in conducting promotion interviews and its lack of uniformity in granting them. For instance, some departments were granted promotion with a condition that his or her promoted status will be valid on fulfilling eligibility conditions such as participation in orientation/refresher courses, whereas some departments in the same university refused to interview teachers who did not fulfil those conditions but were due for promotion. DU’s delayed decision to initiate the recruitment process and its rhetoric to hold interviews is a significant shortcoming of its administration.

It is heart-wrenching to see a university like JNU, which has been an epitome of collective dream for aspiring researchers, plagued by the political ideology of those in power, especially the Vice Chancellor, Mamidala Jagadesh Kumar. The imposing of compulsory attendance, especially when the present system works fine is worth questioning the reason for its revision.

JNU lets its students govern freedom with responsibility and instils self-reliance in them. It inculcates an interdisciplinary perspective and students from one discipline can audit or credit a course depending on their area of interest. It believes in enhancing creative and critical thinking, and an emphasis on inter disciplinary discussions broadens such thinking with deep sensitivity towards societal issues.

A nurturing place like JNU is where one feels a belonging without the burden of being hegemonised linguistically. There are many defining philosophies which make you wonder at the visionary Gopalaswami Parthasarthy, the first Vice Chancellor of JNU, whose seeds of ideas had produced a discourse in democracy called JNU.

It is sad that our university systems demand colonial regimentation like compulsory attendance in the name of able administration in a post graduate university like JNU.

It has been ages since education has been the only source of empowerment for those on the other side of the binary opposition – women, disabled, students from disadvantaged sections of the society, those from extremely deprived backgrounds, people with a differing gender expression from their assigned ones, and so on. But the prevailing situation of administering using political ideologies or corrupt practices of commodifying education, is it time for us to confront the question ‘whom does the future belong to in this country’?

Views expressed are the author's own.

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