Stop violations of the JNU Act! Put Admissions back on schedule! (6.2.17)

On 3 February 2017, the Public Relations Officer of Jawaharlal Nehru University issued a Press Note about the proceedings of the Standing Committee on Admissions on 31st January and 1st February 2017. While the JNUTA welcomes the fact that the JNU administration has woken up to the fact that the JNU admission policy must be one that is in service to the aims and objectives of the JNU Act, particularly its First Schedule, it is less than happy at both the content and timing of this press note, whose intent is once again to barter away JNU’s autonomy, undermine the statutory powers of bodies like the Academic Council, sow confusion in the JNU community and the public at large, and to play havoc with the AC-mandated admission schedule.

  • Far from the impression being conveyed by reports in the media, no agreement on the admission policy has actually been reached. Rather, the only meaningful line in this one page release is the final one “all the above issues will be taken up with the UGC officials.” As JNUTA has repeatedly asserted, it is not the UGC who will decide JNU’s admission policy or what the intake capacity of each Centre will be, but the Centres/Schools/Special Centres and ultimately, a properly conducted Academic Council (AC) meeting of JNU (whose minutes are duly confirmed by all members).
  • The Standing Committee on Admissions (which the Press Note surprisingly calls the ‘Steering Committee’) is a body that makes recommendations to the Academic Council. It is duplicitous therefore to suggest that it has arrived at some decisions/recommendations in advance of an AC meeting to discuss them. In fact, all that the press release states is a wish list, full of ‘shoulds’ and ‘coulds’ that do not merit any discussion until they are put forward as concrete proposals before the Centres/Schools/Special Centres (rather than the UGC). No statute or ordinance of the University empowers the Standing Committee on Admissions to announce a new admission policy, schedule of admissions, or format of entrance test, etc., on its own.
  • Following what has become an alarmingly regular practice now, the Press Note was released even before the circulated minutes of the Standing Committee meeting have been commented upon or confirmed by its members. Given the outright fabrication of sections of the minutes of the 141st and 142nd Academic Council meetings, JNUTA cautions the JNU community not to rely on the press release as an accurate record of its discussions.

    In the opinion of the JNUTA, the objective of this unwarranted and unacceptable publicity given to a meeting of the Standing Committee on Admissions is part of the generalised attack on institutional structure, by which the powers of statutory bodies and offices are deliberately undermined, and their responsibilities carved up and handed over to Committees over which the administration can exercise greater control. The first casualty of this treacherous exercise was the statutory office of the Chief Proctor, then the statutory body of the Academic Council, and now the role of the Standing Committee of Admissions has been perverted to make it greater than, and superior to, that of the Academic Council. These violations are indicate a governance of JNU in contravention of the Jawaharlal Nehru University Act (1966), where the Vice-Chancellor is failing in his duty “to see that the provisions of the Act, these Statutes, the Ordinances and the Regulations are duly observed and the decisions taken by the authorities of the University are implemented (Schedule II, 4.1).”

    JNUTA has already expressed its displeasure at the abrupt cancellation of Direct PhD admissions, which is a violation of the admission schedule approved by the 142nd AC meeting. As we feared, this admission schedule is now set to be violated again, as the online application process was scheduled to start from today, i.e. the 6th of February 2017, but the JNU administration is more concerned with pilgrimages to the UGC office to make queries, whereas in fact the answers are to be found in the university itself. From the information that JNUTA has gathered, most if not all Schools/Centres/Special Centres have already approved the e-prospectus based on the existing, i.e. sans-UGC Regulations 2016, admission policy in January 2017 as well as re-affirmed their commitment to the intake capacity they had specified to the 142nd AC. Despite the completion of this process, admissions to the 2017-18 academic year have been thrown into disarray. Once again, it is the Vice-Chancellor who must take responsibility for this chaos.

    As mandated by the JNUTA GBM, JNUTA has approached the Honourable President, Shri Pranab Mukherjeeji, in his capacity as the Visitor of JNU. Please find attached is the text of our letters, signatories to which are members of the JNU faculty, past and present, including including a former chair of the UGC, members of the UGC governing council, former Vice Chancellors, serving Deans and chairpersons, and other senior faculty.

    We have requested for an urgent appointment with the Visitor and are hopeful of an early response. Our plea to the Visitor is for him to take the following actions:

    1. Annul the decisions of EC (266th and 267th) vide clause no 8.8 to the JNU Act of 1966.
    2. Ensure that all agenda items of these two EC meetings, which were falsely and wrongly presented as “recommendations” of the 141stand 142nd meetings of the AC respectively be sent back to the AC for due deliberation and confirmation.
    3. Uphold equal access to educationfor students from different geographical regions and social strata by upholding the JNU Act, 1966 and preventing the subversion of JNU’s admission policy.
    4. Ensure that no provision curtails, through route of clause 6.5 of UGC Notification, the intake of students, particularly in view of the fact that teachers are willing to supervise more number of students for M.Phil and Ph.D. programmes in the larger interest of the nation.
    5. Ensure that the selection process is fair, transparent and accountable and that the VC does not usurp power to add or delete names in the panel of experts.
    6. Ensure that the suppression of critique, dissent and therefore the repression of academic freedom does not become the norm of “governance” in JNU by enabling teachers and students to voice their opinions without fear of reprisal.
    7. Protect teachers and students who have been targeted selectively on the basis of their identity (social/political) by ensuring that their grievances are heard justly.
    8. Protect institutional and academic autonomy.

    The JNUTA and signatories to the letter shall hold a Press Conference after meeting with the Visitor. Details and venue shall be intimated closer to the date of the appointment.

    Ayesha Kidwai                    Pradeep Shinde

    President, JNUTA              Secretary, JNUTA         jnuta-press-release-6-2-2017

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