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VC cracks the disruption code

- Proposal to ban meetings & rallies during CU class hours

Calcutta University vice-chancellor Suranjan Das has proposed a code of conduct banning meetings and demonstrations during class hours, 24 hours after voicing a “personal opinion” to shift all departments out of the College Street campus.

The vice-chancellor had on Monday suggested relocating the 13 departments to the other six campuses of the university to spare students the disturbances caused by agitations and feuding between employees’ unions.

The suggestion triggered outrage among teachers and students, prompting Das to reiterate to Metro in writing that it was “just a personal opinion” and that a strategy was being worked out to rein in those involved in disruptive activity.

“Meetings, rallies and sit-in demonstrations can’t be staged during class hours from 10.30am till 5.30pm. Indiscriminate use of mikes will also be barred. We will not allow any act of indiscipline on the campus anymore,” the vice-chancellor said.

The proposal to establish a model code of conduct for the employees’ associations will be placed before the university syndicate for approval. “Once the syndicate endorses the proposal, the university will issue the necessary guidelines to implement the code of conduct,” Das said.

Rival Trinamul Congress unions led by Naxalite-turned-party leader Dola Sen and MLA Sobhandeb Chattopadhyay had created a commotion on the campus on November 27.

Vice-chancellor Das had said on Monday that the authorities were powerless against the associations.

“We have failed to curb agitations by employees’ associations despite repeated warnings that any such programme should be held without disrupting the campus atmosphere. It is my personal opinion that we should think about shifting the departments on the College Street campus to our other six campuses to spare students the regular disruptions,” he recommended.

On Tuesday, Das said he didn’t intend to present what many have called a defeatist attitude.

“If, in future, acts of indiscipline by sections of the university community and intrusion of outsiders during hours of academic activity cannot be checked, future university administrations may be forced to think of shifting classes in some courses from the College Street campus either to other campuses or to a new one. That is what I meant,” he explained.

His proposal for a code of conduct will be applicable not only to the employees’ associations but also students and teachers. Rallies can be held only during the lunch break or after classes give over and all administrative wings are closed for the day.

According to the proposal, posters and banners will be allowed only in a designated zone and outsiders will be barred from participating in any protest.

“Every section of the university community must have full protection to exercise their democratic rights. But this has to be done in accordance with established democratic norms and processes, without causing any disturbance to the teaching and learning process and infringement on academic life and atmosphere of the campus,” Das wrote to Metro.

He said the university had already drafted guidelines on how to exercise democratic rights in an orderly manner. “But, unfortunately, due to various reasons we have not been able to implement the code, and for which I have expressed my dissatisfaction and frustration.”

A section of teachers said they doubted if Das’ proposed code of conduct would work given the history of disruptive activities by unions and associations.

The university syndicate, which is the highest policy-making body of the institution, had banned meetings and agitations during class hours with a unanimous resolution in 2008.

But the university authorities failed to implement the ban because of resistance from employees’ associations, particularly those controlled by the then ruling CPM.

“A model code of conduct is not the ultimate solution. The solution lies in implementing the code in every sense of the term, which the authorities have so far looked incapable of doing,” a teacher said.