JNU Considering Action Against Deans, Chairpersons Who Spoke Out Against Compulsory Attendance

A three-member inquiry committee has been set up, and it is possible that the VC will decide to remove these heads of departments from their posts.

New Delhi: While protests continue at Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) over the issue of compulsory attendance, the university’s Executive Council has reportedly decided to initiate inquiries against the deans and chairpersons who wrote to the administration against mandatory attendance.

According to a report in the Indian Express, these deans and chairpersons could face disciplinary action, including removal from their post. “Chairpersons and deans are supposed to be part of the administrative structure. Teachers and students have every right to democratically protest any issue but if chairpersons and deans begin to oppose in writing, it goes against the grain of administration. Therefore, it was decided in the EC that the best way was to institute an inquiry committee to find out why such writings are coming from a handful of chairpersons and deans so that steps can be taken,” a senior official from the administration told the newspaper.

“If somebody says they cannot implement a rule, they are defying authority. The EC had decided compulsory attendance will be implemented, so not implementing it is problematic… If I was the chair, I better quit rather than say that I will not implement it,” the official added.

The number of deans and chairpersons who have written against the move is “not more than seven”, sourced told the Indian Express. In total, JNU has 13 deans and 38 chairpersons, plus five chairpersons of special centres.

According to the Indian Express, the three-member inquiry committee comprises dean of the School of Biotechnology Pawan K. Dhar, dean of the School of Sanskrit and Indic Studies Girish Nath Jha and dean of the School of Social Sciences Pradipta K. Chaudhury. Five EC members had dissented against the decision to initiate inquiries.

“The ground reality is such that the VC might act on it (removal) very soon. He was convincing the EC to use his discretionary power to remove the deans and chairpersons to appoint his own people wherever there is non-compliance. We have followed the seniority principle for the appointment of deans, but he said the statutes don’t mention anything like that, which means he can appoint whoever he likes,” an EC member told the newspaper.

The JNU teachers’ association has reportedly protested the decision to initiate inquiries.

The matter of compulsory attendance has been boiling over on the campus since mid-February, with a large number of students and teachers protesting it and holding classes in the open. Both the students’ and teachers’ unions have also charged the administration of making various ham-handed decisions that will not benefit the university, from faculty hiring to cutting the intake of research students.

As JNU professor Kavita Singh wrote in The Wire, “…what is portrayed in the press as a fight between Left and Right is actually a battle between a well-functioning university and an incompetent administration that is hiding its inexperience behind ill-conceived ideas backed up with aggression and bluster. … The new mandatory attendance rules are symptomatic of much that is wrong in JNU’s administration today. The rules are unnecessary; they do nothing to improve academic performance but are very likely to harm it; they are clumsily framed and they are part of an increasingly authoritarian atmosphere that wants to control, surveille and contain students and faculty because the administration is not able to govern the institution.”