|Malabika Sarkar welcomes Anuradha Lohia (right) to the vice-chancellor’s chair at Presidency University on Friday. Picture by Bishwarup Dutta
Presidency University’s first full-term vice-chancellor Anuradha Lohia listed her priority moments after taking charge on Friday: raise money to pull the institution out of its “severe funds crunch”.
Lohia came to the campus at 10am and immediately got down to business — met university officials and sought to know the state of affairs, including finance.
“One of the biggest problems that I understood this morning is the monetary crunch. It is facing a severe funds crunch. We require funds to run a university. I am going to talk to all senior staff and Malabikadi on how to sort this out,” she said at a press briefing with outgoing VC Malabika Sarkar.
“If you don’t have funds, you don’t have faculty and good facilities. If you don’t have faculty and facilities, you don’t have good students. We would like to make a concerted effort to sort out all the problems.”
On her last day in the office — April 30 — Sarkar had told Metro that one of her biggest handicaps during her two-and-a-half-year stint was “finance”. She said the government “is short of funds” and many projects such as infrastructure maintenance were pending because of the lack of adequate funding.
Asked if she would appeal to the government for assistance, Lohia said: “I would be appealing everywhere. I don’t think this is the only place where I could appeal. Of course the state government looks after Presidency. But apart from the state, there are other funding organisations like the Union government and alumni willing to contribute.”
“I will see what I can do after returning from my tour abroad,” she said in reply to a specific question on whether Presidency would knock on the doors of its global alumni chapters for funds — a model that has brought dividends to St. Xavier’s College.
She would be flying to the UK next week on a pre-scheduled academic assignment and return by this month-end.
Lohia, the former biochemistry professor from Bose Institute, held a detailed discussion with the Presidency finance officer before making her priority list for the university.
She did not perch herself on the VC’s chair immediately after stepping into the chamber. She waited for Sarkar, who came around noon, to formally pass the baton.
“It was such a proud moment… humbling moment. I entered my alma mater to enter into wisdom,” she gave words to her feelings the moment she stepped into the campus. “It was as if I was going blind and could not think.”
The avid trekker walked up the stairs on the way to the VC’s chamber despite university officials suggesting the lift. “As students, we used to climb the stairs. I wanted to go through the same experience the day I got a chance to lead my alma mater.” Lohia graduated from Presidency College in 1976, almost 34 years before the institution became a university.
Swapan Chakravorty, Presidency mentor and Jadavpur University English professor, said: “On behalf of the Presidency mentor group, we are welcoming the first full-term VC, Anuradha Lohia. We would also like to thank professor Malabika Sarkar for the immense service she had rendered during her tenure.”
Sarkar fired her parting shot at the state government and the chancellor’s secretariat for not addressing to her a letter on the handover. “I came to know mainly from the media about the charge handover. I have not received any written order addressed to me till my last working day. I came to know on Friday morning that a letter had come… not addressed to me but addressed to the registrar.”
“Considering whatever education and values I have learnt from Presidency, I think it would have been decent if such a letter was addressed to me,” Sarkar said.
Education officials said there was no rule or convention that states that a letter on formal handover had to be addressed to the outgoing VC.
“Higher education secretary Vivek Kumar (in charge of the chancellor’s secretariat) sent the letter to the university on April 30. Since the registrar is the highest officer on the campus, it was addressed to him for the necessary arrangements,” an official said.