Education

In 143rd Academic Council Meeting, JNU Teachers and Students Put Their Feet Down

The meeting was successfully stalled as teachers and students refused to pass incorrect minutes, which would have ensured the UGC’s discriminatory admission policy was approved by the academic council.

The JNU community protest against the UGC guidelines outside the administrative building. Credit: Titash Sen

New Delhi: The students and teachers in JNU won a small victory at the 143rd academic council held on May 9, when they successfully stalled the vice-chancellor’s attempts to consider the admission policy mandated by the University Grants Commission’s May 5 (2016) guidelines as passed. The university community had raised significant opposition to the UGC guidelines, arguing that, if implemented, it would erode the inclusive admission policy and thereby negatively impact the ideals of social justice that the university stands for.

At the 143rd council meeting, the vice-chancellor resorted to his old tactic and insisted that the minutes of the previous academic council be passed. His motion, however, was obstructed by both teachers and students present at the meeting. They refused to confirm the minutes of the previous meeting, asking instead for deliberation so that inaccuracies within the recorded minutes could be corrected. Incidentally, the same issue had cropped up during the 142nd academic council held in December 2016, when allegations that the minutes of the 141st academic council meeting were incorrectly recorded were dismissed by the vice-chancellor who unilaterally passed them without debate. Camouflaged within the “incorrectly recorded” minutes of the 141st council – held in August 2016 – was an erroneous claim that the council had passed the UGC regulations, when in fact, the council had agreed to send it back to the UGC for further consideration. A distinct lack of democracy had characterised the proceedings of the 142nd academic council, sparking a prolonged protest against the administration.

JNU student’s union (JNUSU) president Mohit Pandey told The Wire that in the 143rd meeting, the issue of the UGC regulations hardly came up, with the university community remaining adamant that the issue of the 142nd council’s minutes be decided first. Even as the vice-chancellor tried, once again, to pass the minutes without due deliberation, the teachers, said Pandey, persisted for hours and demanded that the issue be put to vote. An overwhelming majority of 44 members refused to confirm the minutes that were provided by the vice-chancellor, said Pandey, while JNU teachers’ association (JNUTA) president Ayesha Kidwai confirmed that only a few members spoke in favour of retaining the incorrect minutes.

Once again reminiscent of the 142nd council meeting, the vice-chancellor abruptly adjourned the meeting at 7:30 pm and left. Thereafter, JNUSU tried to hand over a letter to the registrar, stating that it did not accept the incorrect minutes and thereby did not consider the new admission policy outlined by the UGC regulations as passed. According to Pandey, the registrar refused to accept this letter, as a consequence of which, JNUSU was forced to send the letter as an email on May 10.

JNUTA too released a statement following the council meeting, to make it apparent that the admission policy had not been legally passed by any democratic decision-making body within JNU, specifically the academic council, as is required by the JNU constitution. The statement also said that specific amendments to the minutes of the meeting were moved by nine members of the council to ensure that the minutes reflected the actual discussion within the council. The concerns raised were:

  • That the 142nd AC did not approve any seat cuts for MPhil/PhD admissions and in fact had approved intake figures that were about 83% higher.

  • No revisiting of JNU’s progressive admission policy was approved by the 142nd AC

  • The weightage of written exam to viva voce for MPhil/PhD was approved at 80/20.

Furthermore, the statement said, “The JNUTA is amused, but also angered, to read reports in the media in which members of the VC’s team, such as Rector-I, have declared that the minutes of the 142nd meeting had been confirmed by the 143rd AC.” Kidwai said that a five hour long video of the proceedings will be made available soon to ensure that the story is kept straight this time. Interestingly, the administration – quite uncharacteristically – has not released a statement about the proceedings on JNU’s official website yet. In case of the previous meeting, it was quick to cry foul and call out teachers and students for disruption on the website.

The JNU administration had initiated the admission process as per the UGC guidelines, leading to a massive reduction in intake. The increased weightage given to viva-voce for the entrance test was also considered to be discriminatory because it would reduce chances of admission for students from underprivileged backgrounds.

The 143rd academic council meeting is to be reconvened in the absence of definitive mutually agreed conclusions. However, as Pandey said, as far as the university community is concerned, the admission policy is illegal and remains unpassed.