This guest post is by AYESHA KIDWAI
When on January 26, 2016, Prof. M. Jagadesh Kumar, a professor of electrical engineering from IIT Delhi, assumed office as the new Vice-Chancellor of Jawaharlal Nehru University, no one really knew who he was. Although subsequent news coverage have unearthed a short-lived and rather unsavoury notoriety in the early 2000s, his administrative experience appeared to be scant, never even having served as a head of a department in any of the institutions he has served in), so news coverage of his appointment could make mention of only his prowess in the martial arts and his aspirations to nation-building in the university (which, as was eventually revealed, boiled down largely to a somewhat macabre fascination with large military hardware).
The five years of Kumar as Vice-Chancellor of JNU have done much to lift him from the obscurity he once enjoyed, but most of his new-found fame has been singularly unflattering. Met with a sustained opposition from the JNU Students Union and the JNU Teachers Association, Kumar has far from established himself as a capable, transparent, and non-partisan administrator committed to the highest standards of academic excellence. However, the poor press that has consistently dogged him throughout his tenure appears to have done nothing to weaken the extraordinary governmental support that he enjoys. So resolute is this backing, that it not only has it been able to claim the scalp of a senior bureaucrat in the MHRD back in 2019, it has now secured Jagadesh Kumar an unusual continuation in office until “his successor is appointed”, following the indefinite postponement of a meeting for the selection of his successor on January 7, 2020. Continue reading Exclusion Arithmetics in Higher Education -JNU as the NEP 2020 Pilot: Ayesha Kidwai
Following the bizarre idea, earlier mooted by retired army officials, now taken up by the Vice Chancellor of JNU, to install a tank on university campus, ostensibly to instill nationalism in the university community, the JNUTA has issued the following statement:
The JNUTA is amused by the JNU VC’s earnest desire that a tank be rolled onto JNU campus. It is surprising that Prof. Jagadesh Kumar can only be inspired to patriotism upon beholding instruments of war. This seems to be only a personal affliction, since the rest of the JNU community does not need these visual aids to feel love and concern for this land, its environment and all its peoples, whether in the armed services or elsewhere.
The JNUTA also hopes that the JNU VC will understand that developing what he believes is the correct affective attachment towards the Indian Army is not part of his job description. JNU cannot be made into a theatre of war. His statutory role is one of “maintaining and promoting the efficiency and good order of the University” and of upholding the JNU Act and Statutes. The full statement can be read here.
Guest Post by JANAKI NAIR
In an interview to the journal Frontline on February 16, 2016, just 11 days before he took over one of India’s most prestigious universities, Prof Jagadesh Kumar had this to say:
I am a defender of free expression of thought in a democratic set-up and students are free to question me or challenge my views. I believe in constructive criticism, and as long as it is done peacefully and within the boundaries of the law, there is no problem.
Declaring his two top priorities, of which one was the redressal of infrastructural shortcomings, he desired
to improve the learning environment by making it more student-centric. Some of the faculty are great researchers, but they do not have much understanding of teaching. What I want to do requires cooperation from faculty members.
These words, which Prof Kumar has thus far not refuted or denied, should be recalled today, more than three months after his takeover, the most tumultous months the University has ever known. It is too early to judge the VC on his infrastructure promise, as some of us continue to make bone rattling journeys on cycles over the most rutted roads on the campus. Continue reading Who will Educate the Educators? Reflections on JNU today: Janaki Nair