Bengal governor asks VCs about his role
Governor Jagdeep Dhankar, who is the chancellor of all state universities, has sought to know from the vice-chancellors what should be the chancellor’s role in running a university.
Dhankhar, who had taken over as governor in late July, met the VCs at Raj Bhavan on September 4.
A VC who attended the meeting said the chancellor “has advised the VCs to send him a monthly report about the activities of the universities”.
Another VC said the chancellor “sought to know what we thought his role is — ornamental or substantive”.
The chancellor, the VC said, was told that his role was not ornamental. “Then he asked us to consult the statutes of the universities and explain to him what should be the role of a chancellor”.
This was the first meeting between the VCs and Dhankhar.
A vice-chancellor said the chancellor gave an impression that he wanted to have a clear idea about how far he could go to apply his authority on campuses in a state where the government stands accused of curbing the role of the chancellor in order to impose its writ on higher education.
“His predecessor, Keshari Nath Tripathi, had once lamented that his role as chancellor was being curbed. We don’t know whether he (Dhankhar) had that in mind when he made queries about the role of a chancellor,” the VC said.
On March 5, 2018, Tripathi had said that as chancellor of state universities in Bengal, he felt “like a toothless tiger” because of “limited powers”.
“In Bengal, even the name of the chancellor’s nominee to the search committee (which shortlists candidates for the post of vice-chancellor) is decided in consultation with the higher education minister,” he had said.
A vice-chancellor said Dhankhar advised them to go through the acts and statutes governing universities and find out whether the laws said anything on developing a mechanism to establish a direct communication between the chancellor and the VCs.
An official of the higher education department said a VC was bound to report to the chancellor straightaway on any issue but admitted that in Bengal that was hardly the case.
“At Jadavpur University, during the stand-off over scrapping of the admission tests in humanities in July 2018, VC Suranjan Das had gone to education minister Partha Chatterjee’s house to report about the stalemate, instead of approaching the chancellor first,” the official said.
“At Presidency, during a stand-off last September on whether the convocation could be held on the campus because of a students’ unrest, VC Anuradha Lohia had been accused of consulting the state government on the choice of venue.”
The convocation was held at the Nandan-II auditorium in deference to the wishes of the state government, although then governor Tripathi had suggested that the event be held at Raj Bhavan.
Asked what he thought about Dhankhar’s advice to send a monthly report to the chancellor, a vice-chancellor said: “During the meeting, the chancellor was informed that the universities still send reports to his office at least once a month about decisions taken by bodies such as the executive council and the senate.”
The governor also requested the VCs to send him an academic calendar containing details such as the dates of the convocations as well as of the meetings of the decision-making bodies.