Jadavpur University vice-chancellor Souvik Bhattacharyya on Tuesday spoke out against the system of keeping VCs out of the dean selection process, the first public comment by a university head hinting at the government’s attempt to curb campus autonomy.
Trinamul came to power championing the cause of freedom of academic institutions but many feel it is following in the footsteps of its predecessor and exerting pressure to get people of its choice appointed to key posts.
Bhattacharyya is a former dean of students at IIT Kharagpur, where the director — equivalent to the post of VC — decides who will be appointed dean based on reports from teachers.
“How many good systems do you know where the vice-chancellor is not part of the dean selection system? It saddens me when I find that the VC is not part of the process,” Bhattacharyya said at a seminar on the JU campus, attended by several other vice-chancellors.
The seminar on “Politics in the sphere of education” was organised by the state higher education council.
Bhattacharyya’s comments came days after education minister Bratya Basu slammed him for failing to tackle student unrest on campus over a government advisory on putting all student union polls on hold for six months. “Someone who can’t explain the meaning of a government advisory to kids, I wonder how he is going to run the administration,” Basu had said on Friday, after a 22-hour siege on campus by students demanding union polls.
However, 170 JU teachers across all streams, including emeritus professor Sukanta Chaudhuri, rallied behind Bhattacharyya and wrote in a statement: “We members of Jadavpur University are deeply perturbed by recent events on campus. We are specially distressed by public aspersions on the motives and professional ability of the administration and university community.
“There is little the university can do to prevent student agitations whose causes lie beyond the campus. On the contrary, we feel that the administration and faculty who bear the brunt of such agitations can justly demand support and sympathy....”
A state government notification in November last year ended up perpetuating political interference in the appointment of deans.
The notice required the list of dean nominees prepared by a search committee to be vetted by the higher education department before being sent to the vice-chancellor concerned for final selection.
Earlier, teachers of each faculty used to elect one of them as dean — a system that allowed the ruling party to get teachers close to it elected to the posts.
Higher education council chairman Sugata Marjit, present at the seminar, defended the government’s decision.
“The VC being the appointing authority can’t be part of the selection process. Therefore, we have kept him out of the interview board but included his nominee in it,” said Marjit.