Don't be museum piece, Presi

Alumnus heart aches for lost glory, fears for future

By Subhankar Chowdhury
  • Published 20.01.18
GLORIOUS PAST: Governor Keshari Nath Tripathi with vice-chancellor Anuradha Lohia at the museum within Presidency University that was inaugurated on Friday. Picture by Sanjoy Chattopadhyaya

College Street: A museum within Presidency University is "a good addition" but the institute itself should not become "a museum piece", one of its distinguished old boys said at the inauguration on Friday.

"I am sure our institution will not become a museum piece. It will thrive and go ahead until our old sense of pride is restored," former advocate general Anindya Mitra told a gathering that included the governor, teachers, students and alumni.

Asked by Metro later whether he feared that Presidency risked becoming a relic, Mitra said: "It's fine that they have come out with a museum. There was a need for it.... But (also) bring back the old glory and old sense of pride."

Presidency has been unable to find deserving students to fill its classrooms for the second consecutive year, an unthinkable situation to be in for the 200-year-old institute in its earlier avatar as a college. This year, 300 undergraduate and postgraduate seats have remained vacant.

"I have studied here. I am saying this from the core of my heart. In our time, if one had said that he or she was from Presidency, people would view the student with a sense of pride. Now people talk about seats remaining vacant. We feel extremely bad about it," Mitra said. "I have read in newspapers that so many Presidency seats have remained vacant. Can you imagine?"

Mitra, 82, is from the Class of 1955 at the erstwhile Presidency College. He read history there.

Harvard professor Sugata Bose, who heads the Presidency mentor group, was in the audience at the Derozio Hall along with distinguished chair professor Swapan Chakravorty, who curated the museum's collection, when the eminent lawyer spoke his heart out on Friday.

Vice-chancellor Anuradha Lohia said after the event: "He (Mitra) is right. We should not only remember the legacy but also do our bit to strive towards world-class standards."

A group of students was shouting slogans about the delay in renovating the Hindu Hostel outside the main building when the museum event was being held inside.

Mitra appeared surprised when told about the trigger for the protest. "Is the hostel closed? How long? So sad," he said.

The hostel was shut in July 2015 for repairs and the authorities still can't tell when it will reopen.

Jayanta Mitra, the president of the alumni association, said: "The students are justified in demonstrating their protest against the delay."

In a memorandum to education minister Partha Chatterjee last November, the alumni association had alleged that the university authorities were handling vacancies "in a routine, unimaginative manner rather than with the empathy that teachers naturally have for students".