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Slo-mo search for successor stretches Presi VC stint

Malabika Sarkar’s tenure as Presidency University’s interim vice-chancellor could be extended till October 6 or until a full-term successor is appointed.

Sarkar’s term ends on February 15 and it will not be possible for the three-member panel, which has yet to hold its first meeting, to search for a new VC in the available 11 days because of the formalities involved.

Running short of time, the state government has appealed to governor M.K. Narayanan to let Sarkar continue in her post for another eight months.

“Under Section 55, sub-section (IV), of the Presidency University Act, Malabika Sarkar can continue till October 6, 2014, or until the new vice-chancellor joins, whichever is earlier. So we are appealing to the honourable governor (for her extension). Accordingly, we will notify,” higher education minister Bratya Basu told Metro on Monday.

Education department officials said the proposal was sent to chancellor Narayanan after he sought on Monday morning a report on the search and appointment of Sarkar’s successor.

They explained that Sarkar could continue till October because the interim VC of a transitioning university could be allowed a term of four years. Amita Chatterjee, the first temporary VC of the College Street institution, had taken charge on October 6, 2010.

Sarkar succeeded her as the second ad hoc head in October 2011 and her stint had already received two extensions — in July 2012 and in August 2013 — so far.

“The chancellor sought reports after learning that the search committee hasn’t made any headway in finding Sarkar’s successor,” an official said.

The government announced on January 20 that the search committee had been formed to draw up a list of probables for the post.

A source said the panel has yet to get cracking because UGC chairman Ved Prakash, who heads the committee, had not responded to the letter about the assignment. Chancellor Narayanan had nominated Prakash and the missive was sent to him on January 22.

Sources in the university said three emails had been sent to him but he has not replied.

Nayanjot Lahiri, who teaches archaeology at the department of history in Delhi University, and Sugata Bose, the Gardiner professor of history at Harvard University and head of the Presidency mentor group, are the other members of the panel.

The committee, source said, has to start the search process by approving a draft for an advertisement seeking applications from academics for the post of full-term VC of Presidency. The three members must meet before the university registrar issues the advertisement on behalf of the committee.

After the advertisement is issued, the panel will have to give 21 days for candidates to respond. It will then meet at least thrice to prepare a shortlist of applicants.

“The government had to extend Sarkar’s term because this process cannot be completed in 11 days,” said an education official.

The government had the option of appointing another interim VC in place of Sarkar until the panel found a full-term replacement but the idea was shelved because no academic worthy of a Presidency top job would accept a stop-gap arrangement, the official added.

Mentor group chairman Bose, the government’s search panel nominee, welcomed the proposal to extend Sarkar’s tenure. “The extended period should help us carry out an elaborate search to get a distinguished person as full-term vice-chancellor at Presidency,” he said.

Sources said a nationwide hunt would be conducted with a sustained ad campaign in leading dailies.

New campus

Chief minister Mamata Banerjee will lay the foundation of the university’s second campus on February 6. It will come up on a 10-acre plot allotted by the government near Hidco Bhavan in Rajarhat Action Area I.

Finance minister Amit Mitra and education minister Basu will attend the programme. The government gave the land after the Presidency mentor group highlighted in a report last year the space crunch on the university’s College Street campus.