JNU Vice Chancellor M Jagadesh Kumar Wednesday came down heavily on a section of teachers of the university, accusing them of spreading misinformation to serve their “false propaganda”, days after they alleged he weakened the university’s unique character through “arbitrary” decisions.
He also asserted that if “anyone” claims that the university has not progressed in the last five years, “they are among the people who want to see the university get destroyed”.
“This small set of faculty members, they are indulging in all kinds of false propaganda to damage the image of the university. I think, time has come to tell them to come back and focus on their academics and all of us should work towards achieving academic excellence in our university,” Mr Kumar told news agency PTI.
Mr Kumar’s five-year controversial tenure as the VC came to an end on January 26, but the government has asked him to continue till a successor his found.
While he did not share as to by when a regular VC will be appointed, he said he would continue to hold the office until a replacement comes.
“The JNU act states that the current vice chancellor will continue in office until the new Vice Chancellor takes over. So we are simply following the statute of the university,” he said.
“The executive council has to choose two experts, and they’re given to the ministry. We have done our job. So, whatever the process that takes place, that the ministry will take care of,” he said.
Rejecting the concerns raised by the JNUTA about his tenure, Mr Kumar said the governance system of the university had only strengthened in the last five years.
“If anybody is saying that this university has not progressed, they are misrepresenting, and it is only those people who want to see this university destroyed — it is only those people who are spreading this misinformation,” he said.
“During the last five years, we have been following all the university statutes, regulations and ordinances in letter and spirit. And we have also been following all the UGC notifications and rules. And this is what has strengthened the governance system in the university,” he said.
According to him, the admission process, which is being taken care of by the National Testing Agency (NTA) for the last few years, had made the exercise “transparent and accessible”.
“In fact, as part of the National Education Policy, most of the entrance examinations in future will be conducted by the NTA. So, I fail to understand their logic, why they are (JNUTA) against JNU working with NTA to conduct the entrance examinations,” he said.
Talking about JNUTA’s opposition to the establishment of management and engineering colleges, the VC said, the move was meant to “broaden the academic programs of the university”.
“Please understand that we are not starting another engineering college. It is a very unique programme — a dual degree, a five year degree program where the students study both basic engineering, as well as in their master’s degree — social sciences, languages. It’s a very unique experiment,” he said.
“In fact, we are three years ahead of the national education policy in implementing this program because the NEP too talks about multidisciplinary education,” he said.
He added that whether it was choosing experts in the faculty selection committees or the appointment of chairpersons and deans, everything was being done in a “transparent” manner, and in compliance with the university statutes.
Mr Kumar said that barring this “small cross-section of faculty members”, the entire student and teacher community of JNU “was very much appreciative of a large number of reforms that we have carried out, whether they are academic reforms, or administrative reforms”.
Among these reforms was the online functioning of the university, he said.
“Today you don’t see any paper files coming to any of our offices and the entire scholarship process, the entire submission of the PhD thesis and the viva — everything is made online,” Mr Kumar said.
He also added that with the entrance examinations happening in the MCQ format, the admission process had become “more transparent”.
“We should see the positive side of technology and rather than sitting in a time capsule, which will take you back,” he said.
Responding to the JNUTA’s allegation that it was under him that the teachers for the first time did not receive their salaries on time, for the month of February, he said, “Yes, there was a delay of one day. Yesterday, all the staff members were issued their salaries. And today, we already have received the funds from UGC in our bank. And the salaries are being dispersed to everybody.”
Mr Kumar said that while he was welcoming of “dissent, and protests”, he is wary of spreading “false propaganda”.
“We respect dissent, we respect protests. We want to provide every opportunity for them to freely express their opinions, but, there is a difference between people who are perpetually creating confusion by spreading false propaganda, and those who want to genuinely express their disagreement with something,” he said.
“So we need to separate these two. This university is known for debate discussion, and freedom of expression, and we will continue to protect that,” he said.