Narayanan at Kalyani University on Thursday. Picture by Pranab Debnath
Aug. 8: Governor M.K. Narayanan today expressed “dismay” over growing indiscipline among university students and a section of teachers which, he felt, had affected the delivery of education.
“There has been a steady deterioration in the quality of discipline among students and, to some extent, among the faculty. This is severely impacting the delivery of quality education,” he told the 26th annual convocation of Kalyani University.
“As chancellor, I have watched with dismay the state of indiscipline in some universities and, I think, it is important for the university administration and student bodies to act in concert to ensure proper ambience for progress in the field of higher education.”
Narayanan suggested that vice-chancellors weren’t always presenting the real picture in their reports. “If one were to accept the claims made by all the VCs… there would be no cause for worry as to where we are headed as far as higher education is concerned. What comes through is that universities have long ceased to be centres of learning and excellence.”
He said the absence of good teachers was as much to blame for the situation as the presence of bad students. “My experience as chancellor suggests that it is not the lack of good students as much as the lack of good teachers and faculty that is responsible for this state of affairs.”
“The usual complaints of lack of adequate staff, lack of infrastructure, lack of funding do not tell the real or the whole story. Undoubtedly, the state universities suffer from many of these maladies. The main failure to my mind, however, is the absence of dedicated teachers, whether they are professors or assistant professors,” Narayanan added.
The governor’s remarks came against the backdrop of a spurt in campus violence.
Sources said academic activities in at least four universities had been affected by demonstrations by student and staff unions over various issues in the past few months.
In April, Trinamul Congress supporters had barged into Presidency University and vandalised the century-old Baker Laboratory.
Trinamul supporters demonstrated at Gour Banga University in July to protest the prolonged absence of vice-chancellor Achintya Biswas.
In another instance, the Rabindra Bharati University vice-chancellor’s office was vandalised last year. Members of the Trinamul-backed employees’ union allegedly slapped and shoved the university’s registrar, Subrata Ghosh, in June this year following a disagreement over recruitment of non-teaching staff.
Calcutta University, too, had been rocked by rivalry between two Trinamul unions.
All these haven’t gone unnoticed at Raj Bhavan. Narayanan quoted Jawaharlal Nehru to explain the values that a university stands for: “Humanism, tolerance, reason, progress, adventure of ideas and search for truth.”
“If the universities discharge their duty adequately, then all is well with the nation and the people. But if the temple of learning becomes a home of narrow bigotry and petty objectives, how will the nation prosper?” Narayanan said, quoting Nehru.
Kalyani University vice-chancellor Dilip Mohanta refused comment on the governor’s statements. “That’s his personal opinion. I can say there has been a steady change in the state of affairs and the government is taking serious steps for improvement.”