Tuesday, December 31, 2013

The Vices in the Appointment of Vice Chancellors.

The vices in the appointment of Vice Chancellors

There was a time, before 1976, where each university in Karnataka has its own Act and usually, the senior most Professor was appointed as its Vice Chancellor. Much before, prior to Independence, for the only University that existed, University of Mysore, the Maharaja used to invite eminent academic personality with the likes of Brajendra Nath  Seal( who was a Poet and Philosopher too ) to be the Vice Chancellor. The appointment of Vice Chancellors was never an issue or problematic. It was in 1976 a Common University Act applicable to all the Universities in Karnataka was enacted, replacing the Act of each Universities, wherein Government took a preeminent role in the appointment of VCs. The Act stipulated a Search Committee consisting of nominees, who are eminent educationist,  from UGC, Chancellor(who is the Governor of the State), Government and Syndicate of the University concerned. The Chairman of the Search Committee is the Chancellor's nominee prior to 2000 and Government's nominee after 2000 when the new Act was promulgated. The Common University Acts paved way for increased Government's interference and erosion of University autonomy and freedom , thereby endangering the quality and excellence in Higher Education in the Universities.

Today, the quality and eminence has gone for a toss both in the nominees for the Search Committee as well as in the Vice Chancellor it appoints. There are exceptions in both, of course, but exceptions would not make a rule and in fact exceptional ones are humiliated, sidetracked or even overlooked as in the case of Davanagere University at present. Here, not only the Chairman. Dr. U R Ananta Murthy, is hounded and humiliated but also was made to be a helpless witness to the blind insistence of members to include their own candidates for the Post. What is even more worse is the fragrant violation of KSU Act by the highest authority and the upholder of Law, Mr. Hansraj Bharadwaj, the Governor of the State who is also the appointing authority as Chancellor of the Universities. The Act stipulates that Chancellor shall appoint one of the three members recommended by the Search Committee as Vice Chancellor in concurrence with the Government. In other words, the Government concurrence to the candidate appointed is mandatory. Yet, the Chancellor appointed a person who was not the one which the Government concurred.  In fact as recently as the last year, High Court of Karnataka in the case of Dr. Hinchigeri vs Chancellor, has made it mandatory that the Chancellor must get the concurrence of the Government on the candidate appointed as per the KSU Act. Mr. H R Bharadwaj was a renowned Lawyer at the Supreme Court of India  and yet, he often indulged in the flagrant violation of law especially in the appointment of VCs including in the case of Mysore, Shimoga and Davangere Universities wherein Government's concurrence was not adhered to. Perhaps, an expert in Law could hoodwink Law effectively. Perhaps, the long standing politician in him, that too ill famed one at that, took better off him than the sense of propriety, prudence and law.

The story of the Search Committee is equally worse. Few candidates even vie with each other with UGC, Government and Chancellor to see that the person nominated to Search Committee would promote his candidature for the post. Often, Search Committee deliberations begin with each member insisting on the candidate name brought in their pocket to be included and the nature of insistence, their gestures and postures, words and shouts, clearly indicate their commitment made already to the candidate! In some cases Government too steps in to push their candidate in the Committee recommendation. In one such Committee where I was the Chairman, the Principal Secretary concerned enters our room in the very beginning of our meeting and says that so and so is the CM candidate and that name must be included. I had to tell him that CM will surely come to the picture in picking one out of the three the Committee recommends and not before. When he was still persistent, I asked for talking with CM straight away, then the Secretary says it is actually CM secretary who told him that so and so is CM's Candidate! Yet, obviously there is some connection with CM in this regard as immediately after the meeting I received a call from the Minister concerned whether the name of the candidate mentioned by the secretary is included or not as CM wanted him. I took pains to explain to him the procedure followed and how the candidate could not be figured into it. This used to be my procedure in all the Search Committee for which I was the Chairman: Even before opening up the list of candidates and their bio data, I carried my team in agreeing to certain simple and objective criteria on which the applicants could be sorted out such as completion of a minimum of ten years as Professor, administrative experience in some capacity, guidance of a minimum of PhD candidates, publication in refereed journals of certain number of papers, unblemished record of service, age (neither too young where one has to go back to serve in the parent Department for long or too old that he/she will not be completing the term of VC) and so on. Usually, nearly sixty percent of the applicants are eliminated with the said criteria employed. Hence, I told the Minister that the said candidate was eliminated in the first round itself against the criteria employed. Incidentally, when the said candidate was not figured in the list, the members of the Committee suggested that we may have to include him as otherwise I as a local man would be in trouble for not considering the  so called "CM Candidate".  I told them that I would explain and reason out to them and  in any case, will handle it on my own and they need not worry on that count. However, sometimes it may not be that simple. In another Search Committee where I was the Chairman, a candidate who was not figured in the first round when our agreed upon criteria was employed and yet had to be included as other two members from outside the State insisted because the person is already holding a position that is equivalent to VC's post. I said that it is no consideration as the post held is non academic wheras the VC's is academic. Yet they went on insisting without adding any additional reason. It was so exasperating, I had to at last come out with what I was told that they were bribed by the candidate in Crores of Rupees which I did not believe but now the way they were behaving it adds some credence to the rumour spread against them! Although they denied it, and yet were sweating profusely, but would not relent in excluding the name. Finally, I had to open a Lokayukta Judgement against the person and blemished record in service, and they agreed to my decision! I was thoroughly prepared with all the records against the person because I knew there has been tremendous pressure in favour of that crooked professional!

My experiences as member of Search Committee is much worse than as Chairman. Hardly any uniform criteria is employed to evaluate the applicants revealing its total arbitrariness and favouritism. What is more, I had to give even a dissent note(but of no avail) against a person included in the Panel as he was facing serious criminal charges in the trial in the High Court of Karnataka.

Unless persons of eminence with excellence in academics and personal integrity is placed at the helm of University affairs selected by persons of equal eminence and integrity, our Higher Education has no future

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

GSS - A Tribute

G. S. Shivarudrappa ( 1926 - 2013 ) : A Salutation.

I joined Bangalore University as teacher in the year 1977 and after a stint of residence at SBM Colony, I moved to BSK II Stage and for number of years I used to travel in the University Bus to BU. While waiting for the Bus and inside it a constant companion was the revered GSS. After knowing that I am from Sagar, "Oh, you are a Sagarian, most creative people are they, look at K V Subbanna and what he has built" he said and our relationship truly began since then. His readiness to relate to people and resources he has in bringing cordiality and deep affection into it is indeed very endearing. A renowned poet that he was and yet he put me at ease with his equally deep interest in theories of poetics and aesthetics as any discussion of academic nature was my forte. In fact, he did ask for any book in Psychology on Emotions as Bhava/ಭಾವ  is a central theme in poetry as well. Although I told him that Psychologist have hardly worked on those aspect and the emotions they study has very little to do with the Bhava that poetry refers to, yet I gave him a book on Psychology of Emotions which he promptly went through and returned in just about a week. What is more, as late as just a few years before his death he once asked me over the phone about a 'problem' child of his friend and how to go about it.That showed his genuine interest in life and living.

I was an officer in charge of students affairs of the University for number of years and one of its activity is to conduct student election as Returning Officer for election to Student Association and coordinate their activity within each Department of Studies. The Department used to get half of the money student has paid as Association/Student activities Fee for their cultural activities within each Department and it was my duty to coordinate the disbursement. As the money was given to student leaders to conduct the activity who generally has least knowledge of accounting, neither the Heads of the Department or even the Auditors would take it seriously or make an issue of getting the accounts. But not so is our GSS. Promptly, every year, at the end he was the first and probably the last person to send  me the detailed accounts of the money spent on the student activity with all the due vouchers and statements; obviously he was insisting students to get them, thereby instilling in them the responsibility to be answerable to the Authorities. He was a disciplinarian par excellence.

I, as President of Federation of University and College Teachers of Karnataka, as well as President of Bangalore University Teachers Association, faced with severe anomalies and pressing demands of the welfare and development of teachers, used to conduct several General Body Meetings and Public Demonstration. Professor GSS, being such a senior faculty in the University and a highly reputed/regarded poet did not feel below his dignity to participate in such meetings, agitations and demonstrations. In fact, he used to be one among the front benchers in it. This gesture not only encouraged and motivated  us to move forward but also lend credence and credibility to the cause we were upholding.

He administered his Department, as its Head/Director for number of years with a very high calibre of academic deliberations some of which are truly trend setting as for instance the three day or sometimes even more days of annual national seminars held regularly. I was amazed at one such seminars: it was a three day seminar on Kannada drama; whole day there used to be an advanced discussion and presentation with giants in the field like B V Karanth, Girish Karnad, Chandrashekar Kambar, P. Lankesh and so on and in each evening a staging of play which is even to day a path breaking events in staging drama; the three plays were: Kambar's Jokumaraswamy, Lankesh's Oedipus and Samkranti where we could see the fantastic stagecraft and great acting by Karanth, Karnard and others.

 I found GSS always to be a person who is honest and modest in demeanor, clear and definitive in his remarks, with genuine interest in people and their growth. Truly, we and the Kannada Literature and Culture, miss him most.

Dr. G S Shivarudrappa was conferred the title of National Poet/Rashtra Kavi. He was Professor of Kannada and Director of Institute of Kannada Studies at Bangalore University prior to his retirement from service.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Higher Education: Remedy Worse than the Disease

A Bill is passed in the Karnataka Legislature to increase the number of Government representation in the Management of Rajiv Gandhi University of Health Sciences where hitherto the large number of Members of Syndicate and Academic Council belonged to medical profession. The Bill now envisages  adding to these Bodies the Civil Servants - Secretaries of various Departments -  and Nominees of the Government. Further, it also aims to take away the power of the Chancellor who is the Governor of the State in regard to the constitution of Search Committee to select Vice Chancellor wherein now there is a Government Nominee who will also be the Chairman of the Search Committee ( not the Chancellor Nominee as Chairman as is the practice so far ). It also restricts the term of Vice Chancellor to only one term of 3 years rather than two terms of three years each as it was hitherto. Incidentally, the term of Vice Chancellors in Universities of General Education(where large number of Universities exist) is also one term but of four years duration. Similarly, the considerable representation of Civil Servants and nominations from the Government exist also in the Universities of General Education. Yet, there is no reason why ills of the one system should be repeated in the other!

Take for instance the provision of Government nomination to University Bodies. The University Act  and the  new RGUHS Bill says that they should nominate only the eminent educationist or eminent persons from the profession. Yet, in actual practice, the nomination made to University Syndicate and Academic Council are not only no where near any eminence but also not even educationist or professionals at all. Once it was made an issue, a Vice Chancellor, yours truly, rejected the nomination of members to Syndicate on the ground that it violates Act as none of them are educationist and one of the provision of the Act is that it is the duty of the Vice Chancellor to uphold all the provisions of the Act and he will have all the powers to do so. The matter went even to High Court by a PIL. Court chastised the Government and before the delivery of the Judgment, the Government had to withdraw the nomination made to save the face. But that was only momentary because soon after that Vice Chancellor left, yours truly,  after the completion of his term, Government went about nominating again the people of no eminence, non-educationist and non professionals. What is the guarantee the same fate will not accrue in RGUHS also?

The Governor and Chancellor of Universities in Karnataka has suddenly started making a statement in the last few weeks that he will not allow curtailment of Chancellor's power and he would always uphold the autonomy and independence of Universities. One wonders is it not devil quoting scriptures! The very same Chancellor, not long ago, has appointed a person as Vice Chancellor who was (and is)facing serious criminal charges in the High Court and in spite of the dissent note against appointing him on the same grounds by one of the Search Committee Member. What is more, that was that VC's second term as Vice Chancellor although first term was from a different University in Karnataka. What was the necessity of going all out, throwing away all decency and probity, to make him VC yet again without at least waiting for the Court verdict? Similarly, another Vice Chancellor, who was facing criminal charges was not only not allowed being enquired but even given an extension as VC by this Chancellor. His nomination to University Syndicate too does not speak high on the count of eminence or excellence among Professionals he nominates.Yet, the Chancellor talks about excellence and quality in Higher Education, autonomy and independence of University. In fact, as it was said too, that the Government plan to curtail power of the Chancellor is emanated by such doings of the present Chancellor. It  appears the Governor's concern is not really against erosion of autonomy, independence and self-governance of University but it is his self interest; whenever that is affected by curtailment of his power or authority to make his own choice of VCs, he would speak loud against the Government, be it BJP or Congress. However, not that Government is better off. Again as the sayings goes, the move to amend the RGUHS Act emanates from the situation where the present VC did not respond favourably to the overtures of the Government concerned to appoint their men/relations to the University posts. Yet, the Minister says the RGUHS Act amendment is to stem corruption and red tape in that University. Government and majority bureaucrats are notorious in corrupt practices as many surveys by Transparency International and other Agencies have revealed. How do we expect them to go and eradicate corruption and delay in the University? Is it not the remedy that is worse than the disease? It will further vitiate the academic atmosphere of the University by filling with even more corrupt manoeuvres and nepotisms.

Look at the best of Institutions/Universities that have achieved quality and excellence such as IISc, IITs and IIMs in our own country or more incontrovertibly, Cambridge and Oxford, Stanford and Harvard Universities abroad and see how they achieved excellence and eminence. Truly eminent people are appointed as Vice Chancellors who is assisted by people of proven competence and commitment to the quality and excellence in education. They are held responsible for all that goes on in the Institution. There is no interference from the government and politicians as well. This way, such institutions create quality professionals who contribute to the welfare of the society.