Concerns about the process of sanctioning leave and the Leave Committee

The JNUTA HAS SENT THE FOLLOWING EMAIL today TO THE JNU VICE -CHANCELLOR WITH regards to APPLICATIONS FOR sabbatical/eol/duty LEAVE BY Faculty members

Dear Prof. Pandit

We hope this email finds you in good health and spirit.

We are writing this letter as a follow-up of our letter dated 30th May 2022 about the Leave Committee (LC) that was constituted following the decision in the EC meeting held on 5th May 2022 to consider ‘long leave’ applications of faculty members. The two concerns that we pointed out were:

  • The applications of 8 colleagues for sabbatical and extraordinary leave (EOL) were referred to the LC with retrospective effect.
  • The academic and procedural rationale of the LC was questionable on the grounds that:
    • There was an already established, sound, transparent and statutory procedure for taking such decisions.
    • The constitution of the LC undermines the democratic structure where the centres and schools used to recommend cases of leave after due academic diligence. 
    • This additional stage of scrutiny adds to uncertainties and delays.
    • It is counter-productive to a healthy research environment in the university as the latter needs to be supported by a time-bound and transparent process.

The JNUTA finds that the ‘method of scrutiny’ adopted by the LC confirms the apprehensions stated in our email dated 22.06.2022. It seems each colleague’s leave application seems to be subjected to a different scrutiny. It is shocking that  the terms of reference of the LC have not been shared even with the EC members, and no standard operating procedure has been notified for the LC. Both the applicants and the teaching community have been left in the dark as to why these applications are being treated differently. The JNUTA finds it extremely concerning that there is already a delay of more than one-and-a-half months from the date of the last EC meeting held on 5th May 2022, which should have taken decisions on these applications.

As of today, the status of the eight applications is as follows:

  • Of 5 sabbatical applications, 2 are now being sent to the EC without revealing the recommendations of the LC.
  • On the matter of 3 EOL applications, no decision has been communicated yet.

Both sabbatical and extraordinary leave are important for the research standing  of the university in different ways and have a direct impact on the perception of JNU as an institution committed to research and learning. While sabbatical leave enables faculty to research, write, and otherwise prepare monographs, textbooks, and other scholarly texts for publication, extraordinary leave facilitates faculty to take up funded fellowships and visiting positions in other universities and research institutions. The inordinate delay in according these types of leave therefore damages the standing of JNU on two distinct fronts in the academic ecosystem in which it is embedded. Neither academic publishers nor funding institutions and/or inviting departments will consider supporting JNU faculty, as their acceptance of contracts and deadlines will always be deemed unreliable and contingent. Already, the colleagues who have yet to be granted leave have been put in a highly regrettable and embarrassing position not of their own making.

We are also particularly disturbed by the order issued to two colleagues who  have been informed on 22nd June 2022 that the ‘recommendations of the Leave Committee’ on their applications will be placed in the next Executive Council meeting (no date specified).

  1. The nature of the recommendations made by the Leave Committee in these two cases has not been revealed to the teachers.
  2. The reason for different standards of scrutiny for sabbatical applications is not provided.
  3. JNU’s EC has so far taken decisions on long leave applications on their academic merit, on the basis of factual information provided by the Academic Branch. The next EC will, however, not be doing this; instead, it would consider the recommendations of the Leave Committee, and the EC’s decision will thus be dependent on the integrity, fairness, and due process followed by the Leave Committee in making its recommendations. Therefore any lack of transparency or uniformity in the Leave Committee’s procedures are extremely worrisome.
  4. The teachers have felt harassed and humiliated by this process.
  5. The JNUTA also finds it inexplicable that a single letter has been sent jointly to two colleagues informing them about the decision to refer their leave applications back to the next Executive Council meeting; these were two separate applications that should have been evaluated in their respective contexts.

We also wish to put on record that it has become exceedingly difficult for colleagues to get their duty leave applications sanctioned, particularly those travelling out of the country. Many of these applications have been fraught with delays and denials, and some of the colleagues have been forced to apply for earned leave though their travel was for purely academic reasons. 

The JNUTA is of the view that this cumbersome process does not in any way advance efficiency in processing applications.  On the contrary, it only causes delay and conveys a distinctly partisan treatment amounting to harrassment of the teachers.

We strongly reiterate our request to you to dissolve the Leave Committee, particularly given the recent turn of events in the matter. All pending leave applications must be expeditiously considered in an emergency EC as soon as possible.

We appeal to you to restore the academic and research environment that has brought the University to its current status of academic excellence, which in turn needs to be facilitated by a transparent, fair and efficient academic leave sanctioning process.

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