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'Denied Promotion, Selective Targeting': JNU Professors Allege Harassment

In a report, JNUTA pointed out several critical issues impacting the professors. The Quint spoke to some of them.

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YS Alone, a professor at the Jawaharlal Nehru University's (JNU) School of Arts & Aesthetics, has been due for the post as the dean of his department since 2021. However, he says that there has been no indication from the university that this will be sanctioned anytime soon.

Why? According to him, he is being targeted, along with 47 other teachers, for holding a one-day protest against the JNU administration in 2018. A "chargesheet" was filed against the professors by the JNU administration in July 2019.

"It's been four years now, but we, the dissenting teachers are constantly being harassed by the administration and not getting what we deserve," he told The Quint.

In a report titled 'JNU: The State of the University,' released on 22 September, the JNU Teachers' Association (JNUTA) raised concerns over the deteriorating conditions of the academics at the university.

The report highlights that 276 faculty members, primarily assistant and associate professors, were eligible for promotions since 2019. But a staggering 76.4 percent of them are still awaiting their turn to be promoted.

There has been no immediate reaction from the JNU administration to the report. The Quint reached out to the office of JNU VC Santishree Pandit but the emails sent to her did not elicit a response. The Quint then reached out to JNU's media coordinator who said, “the VC was very tied up,” and could not respond.

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What Does The JNUTA Report Say?

JNUTA highlighted a series of critical issues affecting the university –including falling academic standards, rule violations, admission issues, and 'arbitrary' leave policies.

"Displaying utter contempt for institutional norms and statutory provisions that made for democratic self- governance and orderly functioning, a centralised, arbitrary and dictatorial mode of (mis)governance was put in place, which tolerated no questioning of decisions," the JNUTA report said.

Recent years have witnessed substantial changes in the JNU governance and these changes, according to the report, have had far-reaching consequences.

“…the process of destruction of the university unleashed from 2016 has continued abated, even after the change of the Vice Chancellor in February 2022," it stated.

According to the JNUTA report, 14 appointments of deans of different schools of JNU have taken place since February 2022. Out of this, 10 cases have involved "bypassing of senior colleagues in their respective schools."
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'Promotions, Pensions Stalled On Basis of Chargesheet Filed'

In July 2019, the JNU administration filed a chargesheet against 48 teachers who participated in the one-day protest, by invoking the Central Civil Services (CCS) rules framed for government employees for conducting a protest a year prior to that.

The "chargesheeting" of the teachers by the then VC M Jagdeesh Kumar had been widely criticised as a move to curb the freedom of thought and expression by the teaching community. Taking prima-facie cognisance of the issue, the Delhi High Court stayed the matter in August 2019.

Professors whom The Quint spoke to claimed that the chargesheet was used as a way to harass them.

"Despite the stay by the court, the chargesheet is being used to illegally to block the promotions and deanship of teachers that were even due before the date of the chargesheet and the date of the protest action it relates to.”
Professor YS Alone told The Quint

JNUTA President and Professor at JNU's School of Computer and Systems Sciences DK Lobiyal said, "We are seeing that promotions have been denied to our colleagues, whereas some teachers have been given extensions as chairpersons and deans beyond the tenure of a vice-chancellor."

Lobiyal added that though faculty promotions at the university were contentious under the previous administration under Kumar, nothing had changed after a change in leadership.

“What happened after V Santishree Pandit [the current Vice Chancellor] joined JNU in 2022? We had thought that there would be some substantial change, but nothing happened. Nothing changed in the way appointments are made, recruitment is done. And people are waiting for the last seven to 10 years for their promotions. And promotions are very selectively done," Lobiyal told The Quint.

Professors also alleged that pensionary benefits were also denied to several teachers.

"JNU has been withholding pensionary benefits of several colleagues who have retired since. It was only after a series of court orders that minimum pension and leave encashment was released to them. However, they are still being denied their gratuity and the commutation of their pensions," Moushami Basu, a professor at JNU's Centre for International Politics, Organisation and Disarmament told The Quint.
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'Have To Run Up And Down To Get Leaves Approved'

All the five professors whom The Quint spoke to claimed that "asking for leave resulted in harassment."

“Leave for academic purposes is a facility granted to teachers for their academic improvements and achievements, which ultimately benefit the institutions of higher learning. Unless there is any specific exigency, any leave that a faculty member is eligible for is expected to be granted as a matter of routine,” said the JNUTA report. However, restrictions have been imposed on such leaves, it added.

Saurajit Mazumdar, a Professor of Economics at the Centre for Economic Studies and Planning, had reportedly applied for a sabbatical leave on 1 May 2022. But his leave had to go through the 'Leave Committee' and was processed and was approved on July 2022.

The introduction of this committee as opposed to being discussed and passed in the Executive Council (EC) had hindered the academic leave processes, resulting in unreasonable demands and delays, the professors alleged.

"The process of granting leave, the process of promotions, or any such case, any matter that teachers have to take up, they are subjected to all kinds of harassment and victimisation. No one knows where the file is, or where the application is going. We have to run up and down the administrative offices and spend long periods of time in that particular process. The administration has built this kind of insensitivity, where there’s no accountability," Mazumdar said.

"It is the administration's duty to grant me leaves that I am entitled to. Your self-respect and dignity takes a hit when you are being made to run from one corner to another for something this small. Just because I criticise an action of yours, it cannot be held against me," Mazumdar told The Quint.
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'Suffering From Consequences of Bureaucratisation'

In the JNUTA report, teachers attributed the alleged harassment to "the consequences of bureaucratisation, administrative apathy and the insensitivity which are bred by a centralised structure of governance."

Mazumdar said that rules were being "manipulated" to create "unnecessary hurdles" for the teachers whose names were mentioned in the chargesheet.

"Just because we protested for one day, they had issued a chargesheet against us for a major penalty under rules that are not applicable to us. The administration is specifically targeting teachers," Mazumdar said.

"The usage of the chargesheet to victimise people did not happen earlier. But now, there are new ways of harassing teachers. An institution has to function on based on norms and as per an individual's wishes," Lobiyal added.

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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