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GET GOING

What are university campuses for? They are places where individuals, singly or in groups, may speak, listen, read and write and think for the sake of learning and excellence. Disruptive behaviour — especially continual, amplified noise — makes it difficult, indeed impossible to conduct any of these activities. And since they are integral to the business of teaching, learning, research and related administration, premises that foster disruptiveness and hinder academic progress should cease to be considered fit for use as a university. So, if 13 departments of Calcutta University cannot function properly in their traditional location because of noisy and uncontrollable politicking, then it is perhaps a good idea — from a strictly pragmatic point of view — to move them to where they may get on with their usual business without interruptions and annoyance.

It is true, though, that to be forced to do this is an admission of one kind of failure — the failure to maintain law and order in the campus so that students can study and attend classes and teachers can teach. To maintain discipline is one of the important functions of the university authorities, and to admit to not being able to do so speaks of an unfortunate state of affairs in the realms of both higher education and politics in West Bengal. This is the only reason why the vice-chancellor’s wondering aloud whether the departments may be relocated is to be lamented. To say that Pali has been taught in a particular building for more than hundred years and therefore it cannot be taught anywhere else is to take the respect for tradition or heritage a little too far. Of course, the College Street buildings of the university are very old and some worthy activities have been conducted in them for a long time. But it is more important to ensure that these activities are allowed to continue than to preserve heritage — whatever that may mean in this context — at the cost of the university’s primary academic function. Calcutta University’s current condition, together with its continuation into the future, is far more important than the glories of its past — a somewhat obvious fact that is applicable to most gloriously pedigreed institutions in Bengal, and indeed to the state itself. Ensuring that classes are not disrupted is crucial. But the question of discipline, and of law and order, should not be ignored as well.