Civil Service Rules Will Take Away Our Freedom to Dissent: JNU Faculty

The teachers' association further stated that these rules are applied to administrative officers in the government and their extension to JNU will take away the social use of the university.

New Delhi: In yet another alleged unilateral decision, the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) administration has decided to impose Central Civil Services (CCS) Conduct Rules for faculty members, a step that the teaching community views with disdain given its academic nature of work.

The JNU administration, headed by vice-chancellor M. Jagadesh Kumar, in the 147th academic council meeting held on October 5, adopted ordinances related to the new University Grants Commission (UGC) regulations which included the implementation of CCS rules for faculty members.

If brought into full effect, it would mean professors will neither be able to freely discuss academic matters in public nor criticise the administrative high-handedness that has become a matter of serious conflict between the VC and the academic community in JNU over the last two years. The CCS rules bar a government servant from participating in any political activity, to strike work and also to publish anything without the permission of the government.

The rules will also disallow employees to speak to the press even pseudonymously. If at all they may be allowed to speak to the media, the employees should refrain from speaking anything critical of the government or its policies, or anything which may cause embarrassment to the government.

The decision to implement CCS rules for teachers is thus being seen by most academics as going against the very grain of an university space, which have largely been granted the freedom to discuss ideas freely and critically. A majority of teachers believe that the decision is yet another attempt by the VC and his cronies to silence those who have been questioning administration’s authoritative decisions in the recent past.  

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“Under these rules, economics professors can be punished for discussing economic policy; political scientists can be punished for discussing politics; environmental science professors can be punished for discussing environmental policy; scientists can be punished for discussing government science policy etc. All educationists can be punished for expressing their views on educational policy. The very role that academics are supposed to play in the classroom and in civil society, has become criminalized,” said Ranjani Mazumdar, who teaches at the School of Arts and Aesthetics (SAA) in JNU.

Faculty members not consulted

A statement released by the JNU Teachers Association (JNUTA) claimed that the new set of UGC rules were passed by the AC without any discussion with the faculty members. In fact, the JNUTA claimed that a large section of these rules were presented in front of the AC suddenly without any prior information to the faculty members. According to the convention, the matters of discussion at the AC meeting are first circulated among all the stakeholders which are then debated in the council.

The JNUTA has been saying that the VC has been getting his decisions passed in different high-handed ways. “The JNUTA strongly denounces the vice-chancellor and the JNU administration for once again repeating the practice of treating the Academic Council of the Jawaharlal Nehru University as a rubber stamp to approve decisions already taken by them,” the statement said, adding that the the dean of SAA and JNUTA secretary were denied entry into the AC meeting on “specious” grounds.

“The 147th Academic Council was crucial since it had to consider the adoption of new Ordinances related to the new UGC Regulations into which the Administration had inserted clauses making CCS rules applicable to teachers at JNU.  Several members pointed out that the draft ordinances were circulated without giving any time for discussion by the faculty of the university in the different Centres and Schools and they should not be adopted without detailed discussion at all levels,” the JNUTA statement said.

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Pointing out further anomalies, it said that “four pages of (proposed) changes to the circulated draft ordinances were suddenly tabled as editorial changes, but some of them involved major, highly important changes.”

The JNUTA said that when the VC tabled the new UGC rules, a few of the faculty members pointed out that CCS rules were not a part of the new regulations. However, to this, the VC merely said that “the UGC instructions mandated the adoption of CCS rules but refused to produce any document in support of this assertion”, the JNUTA claimed.

When the teachers demanded that the matter be further debated in the university, as they felt that such rules violated the fundamental principles of education, the VC “rebuffed” all such suggestions and passed the regulations provisionally. The JNUTA also tried to raise the issue of vacant seats in M.Phil and Ph.D programmes but the VC refused. In a recent order, the Delhi high court had directed the JNU administration to fill up the vacant seats.

“Even earlier at the very beginning of the meeting, the JNUTA president tried to raise the issue of procedural irregularities as a point of order and some other members too raised their hands in support. The vice chancellor rejected this request and moved on to the agenda. No discussion was even allowed on the minutes of the previous meeting that were to be confirmed,” the JNUTA statement said.

Registering its dissent with the registrar of the university, the association noted, “The JNUTA would like to point out that CCS (conduct) rules are applied to administrative officers in the government, their extension to universities like JNU will take away the social use of the university. A university produces new knowledge and teaches it. But to do so, it needs independence of thinking and the freedom to dissent and act on that dissent. The CCS rules will remove these freedoms.”

Alleging that the objective behind posing these rules was precisely this, the JNUTA said that the administration has already invoked the CCS rules while issuing show cause notices to 48 teachers for participating in a peaceful protest. “It is now attempting to formalise its authoritarian ways by incorporating CCS (Conduct) Rules in the Ordinances,” the statement added.

Note: The Wire attempted to contact the VC, but the calls went unanswered. The story will be updated if and when a response comes.