Monday, October 2, 2017

Supersession protest in JNU over dean post

New Delhi, Oct. 1: The Jawaharlal Nehru University Teachers' Association (JNUTA) today called for a protest after at least five professors were allegedly superseded for the post of the dean of the School of Social Sciences.

Four of the five professors have opposed vice-chancellor M. Jagadesh Kumar's move to "tamper with" selection panels for teacher recruitment and to replace JNU's model sexual harassment watchdog with a largely nominated body.

The School of Social Sciences is considered a stronghold of communist and Ambedkarite student groups, as well as Left-leaning teachers.

In a statement today, the JNUTA said that while appointing economics professor Pradipta Chaudhary to the post after economist C.P. Chandrasekhar's term ended yesterday, VC Kumar overlooked historians Kunal Chakrabarti and Rajat Datta, economist Jayati Ghosh, Ravi Srivastava of the Centre for the Study of Regional Development and Binod Khadria of the Zakir Husain Centre for Educational Studies.

By convention, the senior-most professor of the School of Social Sciences, in this case Chakrabarti who became professor in 1998, should have taken over instead of Chaudhary, who became professor in 2001.

"The JNUTA would like to remind the university administration that the provisions of the JNU Act are fleshed out and enforced in the university both through rules and regulations and established convention, which has the force of law," the teachers' association said in the statement.

"For example, the regulations related to the executive council and the academic council state that in the absence of the vice-chancellor, the senior-most rector shall preside. This is not contained in the Act, however," it added.

The JNUTA pointed out that four of the five professors had dissented to certain decisions of the VC.

Srivastava and Ghosh are among those who have filed a writ petition in Delhi High Court against the VC's alleged tampering with selection committees by illegally increasing the number of experts. Datta is party to a writ petition filed in the high court against the dissolution of the Gender Sensitisation Committee against Sexual Harassment.

Chakrabarti, in his capacity as acting dean of the School of Social Sciences, has registered a written dissent on Kumar's alleged additional appointment of experts to two selection committees.

The JNUTA has also cited a 1995 judgment of Andhra Pradesh High Court in a case filed by University of Hyderabad professor K.N. Srivastava against the institution in which the principle of seniority had been upheld.

"The message from the JNU administration is now clear: any opposition to the VC's illegal tampering with, and improper conduct of, selection committees and other violations, shall invite certain retribution, through whatever means available, and always in violation of principles of natural justice. The singular goal is the vitiation of the process of faculty recruitment (and promotions)," the JNUTA statement said.

VC Kumar could not be reached over phone for comment. He also did not respond to text messages from this newspaper.

Recently, professor Nivedita Menon was removed as chairperson of the Centre for Comparative Politics and Political Theory and barred from any statutory body for five years for alleged "misbehaviour in the selection committee (for teacher recruitment)".

Menon had reportedly objected to the manner in which an interview was conducted.

JNUTA sources said these two instances of alleged harassment, as well as numerous notes of dissent by deans and chairpersons against the actions and composition of various selection panels, would be taken up in the high court when the case on the selection panels is heard in December.

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