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


Ajit Lakshmiratan said...

Sir, with due respect to you the publishing of this blog is like washing dirty linen in public. However, if you feel so strongly why don't you get the sordid happenings exposed on media and newspapers. This will have the desired impact which I feel you want to have. Regards and best wishes

Professor Divakaran of MBMEngg.college JOdhpur. said...

Dr.S.Divakaran PH.D (Toronto) former Dean of Engineering.JNVyas University Jodhpur.now aged 82
In Rajasthan,one VC of the JNV wasappointed as she was the chum of Sonia Gandhi.Another, now deceased, built a compound wall of some eight km around a fifty acre campus allotted to the unversity!! What was in it is know to the Praacharya.
Political interference into the Universities must stop to prevent further putrefaction of our academic atmosphere indeed.
Writing to the media wll give fifteen minutes of attention. What the Professor intends is to impact the academicians involved in the academic processes.Shubham Astu