The Jawaharlal Nehru University Teachers’ Association on Wednesday wrote an open letter to President Ram Nath Kovind against the alleged “misgovernance” of Vice Chancellor M Jagadesh Kumar. The association alleged that Kumar has been rejecting every effort made to find a solution to the crisis at the university.
Students at the university have been protesting against the administration’s decision to hike hostel and mess fees for over a month now. This has led to student protest marches and clashes with the police, as well as vandalism at the hostels. On December 8, the Ministry of Human Resource Development advised the university administration to notify the students’ union and withdraw the police complaints against students as a first step to resolve the standoff.
On December 12, the ministry had issued a statement saying that it had held discussions with the administration of the university and with the Jawaharlal Nehru University Students’ Union to resolve the crisis. The ministry said that during the meeting it was “emphasised that all the stakeholders in the JNU shall adopt a flexible approach in order to find a satisfactory solution, and end the confrontationist situation prevailing in the campus since the last month or more”. It also said that the administration should take a lenient view of student protests.
“He [Kumar] has even arrogantly and contemptuously spurned the opportunity offered by a second initiative of the MHRD [Ministry of Human Resource Development] to facilitate a resolution,” the teachers’ association wrote on Wednesday. “The clear evidence of this lies in the complete mismatch between the subsequent actions of the JNU administration and what was put out by the MHRD in a 12 December 2019 press release.”
The teachers’ association alleged that Kumar has attempted to somehow complete the university’s end-semester examinations as per the academic calendar. “This is also in sharp contradiction with the approach reflected in the MHRD’s report – that of first redressing the concerns of students and then consider an extension of the semester by a couple of weeks to allow academic activities to be completed,” the association said.
The association said the vice chancellor now wants to hold the exams through “alternative modes” in the next three to four days. “He wants the question papers for examinations of all courses to be sent to students registered for them,” the JNUTA said. “Students are then expected to write the answers in their homes, hostel rooms or anywhere other than the classrooms...” The association said that the students have been allowed to submit their answers through email and WhatsApp, including answers for oral exams.
The teachers said that by asking them to participate in this exam process, the vice chancellor wants to destroy the hard-earned reputation of the university. “He is also in the process asking us to join him in violating the provisions of the JNU Act, Statutes and Ordinances that the VC and teachers are supposed to be bound by,” they added.
The JNUTA appealed to the president and the Ministry of Human Resource Development to “act immediately to abort this destruction of a premier public institution”. “Only after that would teachers be in a position to ensure that the academic activities of the semester including evaluation are completed in the manner they should be,” they added.
On November 26, a high-level committee constituted by the university administration had recommended a 50% reduction in the proposed service and utility charges. The committee recommended that the utility and service charge be brought down from Rs 2,000 per month to Rs 1,000 a month for all students, and 75% reduction in these charges for those below the poverty line. It said the eligible BPL students would be charged Rs 500 in place of Rs 2,000 per month. However, the rest of the proposed revision of fees remain unchanged.
The move came even as a committee created by the Ministry of Human Resource Development was due to submit its report in the matter. The last partial fee rollback was not accepted by the students and resulted in massive protests.
The JNU administration on November 22 defended the fee hike, saying it was facing a fund deficit of Rs 45 crore. The University Grants Commission had agreed to release Rs 6.41 crore to the administration to help the institution.