JNUTA PRESS RELEASE AFTER AAKROSH DHARNA

Press Statement

The JNUTA today organized an Aakrosh Dharna in the University following the decision taken at its GBM held on 16 February 2018, in which a sense of distress emerged regarding the situation on campus. A large number of teachers participated in this Dharna to protest against the undemocratic, authoritarian and unilateral functioning of the JNU Administration and the VC. The JNUTA is clear that it is this way of functioning, marked by flagrant violations of due process and the complete refusal to negotiate with the stakeholders, which is responsible for the current crisis facing the University. Several teachers who spoke at the Dharna highlighted the numerous instances of such administrative functioning and expressed the teachers’ resolve to resist this. A large number of students also joined their teachers in this protest. Several speakers also pointed out that the attack being witnessed in JNU was part of a larger attack on public higher education in the country.

JNUTA strongly objects to the remarks made by the JNU Vice Chancellor in a television interview where he asserted that the attendance issue had been “discussed at length” and “passed by a majority opinion” by the Academic Council.

First, the issue of attendance is just the tip of the iceberg. There have been many instances in the last two years where the Academic Council proceedings have been circumvented. Numerous members of the Academic Council as well as JNUTA have been raising objections about the manner in which the Academic Council meetings are conducted (these are available on the JNUTA blog). The chair has not allowed discussions on crucial issues, opinions have been overruled and the minutes misrepresent what happened in the meeting. Several AC members and centres subsequently raised objections in this regard but these objections were not taken into account in any manner. Instead, the administration has been issuing orders that completely overrule the views of the primary decision making units as per the JNU statutes i.e. the centres. In addition to several centres, JNUTA has also raised objections to the mandatory attendance circulars.

It is important to note that it is not just the substance of mandatory attendance that is questionable (even though debatable) but the manner in which it has been imposed, with a subversion of consultative procedures through a process devoid of consultation and due process. Additionally, the response to the resistance has taken the form of a tightened pressure on the students through threats of punitive actions such as withdrawal of fellowships, residential and health facilities etc. This may have serious distress to students, a large number of whom come from deprived backgrounds. The Delhi High Court, in its order in the Amity case, has highlighted some of the problems that arise from a mechanical implementation of rules.

The attendance issue is currently the one that is at the forefront. But it is symptomatic of a general degeneration of the democratic processes on campus. The way in which selection committees are being set up for faculty selection, the manner in which administrative posts such as Deanships, Chairpersonships, Wardenships etc. are being filled up in completely arbitrary ways are collectively directed at concentrating power in the hands of the higher leadership.

Second, the present teachers’ association was elected on campus recently and has been repeatedly seeking the audience of the Vice Chancellor (letters sent on 7 February and 12 February plus a phone call to VC’s office on 13 February). While JNUTA is always open to an indication of dialogue from the side of the Administration, it feels that the stony silence with which all its attempts to speak with the Vice Chancellor have been met so far, is indicative of an effort to delegitimize the representative body of the teaching community. It may be noted that this body was voted in by a strong majority of the teaching community, over 90% of whom came to cast their vote. The letter sent by JNUTA requesting the Vice Chancellor to meet the JNUTA team on a courtesy call (written on 7th Feb) remains unanswered till date. The Administration has shown disregard for not just the JNUTA but all democratically-elected associations such as JNUSU as well.

On 15-16 February, when the students assembled at the Administrative Block to seek audience with the Vice Chancellor, JNUTA approached JNUSU leaders and appealed to them to lift the sit-in. We were informed that the students wanted to speak to the VC and that they were waiting for a call for meeting. We wrote to the VC to have a dialogue and resolve the matter and JNUTA President repeatedly called and messaged Rector 1 (not only at his office but also on his personal mobile) to open a dialogue in order to help diffuse the situation, but to no avail.

Having said this, JNUTA remains open to any attempt at resuming dialogue. It welcomes the communication that was received late last evening from the registrar to include JNUTA President and Secretary in a meeting related to university matters. Although we received this intimation on a Sunday evening, after the call for this press conference, JNUTA welcomes any initiative whatsoever to open channels of communication. However, JNUTA hopes that future communications (and we hope there are many!) are communicated first to the JNUTA and then tweeted for public consumption (as happened with the first official communication to JNUTA, which appeared on twitter first and was subsequently delivered to the JNUTA President).

Third, it is ironic that the university is ready to implement compulsory attendance rules for students without paying any heed whatsoever to issues relating to the teaching side, which have long remained unattended. There is a crying need for infrastructural upgradation. Teachers struggle for basic facilities such as computers, rooms to work in and proper laboratory conditions. The library is under pressure due to its limited seating capacity, academic buildings lack safety features such as fire exits and the science schools struggle for space for laboratory equipment. Far more damaging than the infrastructural shortages, is the fact that promotions of several faculty members have been stalled since long, leading to demoralization for the younger faculty.

A distress situation currently exists on campus, resulting from the mechanical policy experiments of the administration. JNUTA is committed to contributing to the building of a healthy campus that is conducive to learning. It is concerned at the manner in which the image of this great institution and its community are being tarnished. This university has transformed the lives of so many students as well as teachers who are first generation academics of their family, and in many cases, even their entire village. JNUTA is committed to preserving the pro-poor, pro-people vision of this university.

JNUTA demands an immediate withdrawal of the circulars issued on attendance. This issue must be debated in the Academic Council in a proper manner first. We also demand that the Vice Chancellor convene the Academic Council on the 23rd of February, as scheduled earlier. JNUTA is fully committed to having a dialogue with the administration on the multiple problems currently plaguing the university. However, if our demands of reinstating the JNU ordinances and statutes, as well as the withdrawal of arbitrary diktats, are not met, JNUTA will be left with no option but to intensify its struggle.

Sonajharia Minz, President

Sudhir Kumar Suthar, Secretary

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