After the faculty of Presidency University, it is now its mentor group’s turn to bat for the extension of the tenure of its interim vice-chancellor, Malabika Sarkar.
In its fifth report submitted to chief minister Mamata Banerjee on Monday, the group asked for an extension for Sarkar till the university gets a full-time vice chancellor.
Incidentally, the state government seems determined to oust Sarkar before the expiry of her term and has even appointed a three-member panel to look for her successor.
At the root of the controversy is the fact that Sarkar will turn 65 on August 15 even though her tenure ends on October 16.
Meanwhile, the controversy took another turn on Monday evening when the higher education department issued an order stating that Sarkar would be given a six-month extension or an extension till a new interim vice-chancellor is selected following a government order.
This was confirmed by education minister Bratya Basu.
Incidentally, the higher education department order clashes with the suggestion of the mentor group which has urged that Sarkar be given a two-year extension in its report to Banerjee earlier in the day.
“Our current vice-chancellor has outstanding leadership qualities and we want her to continue in this position until the university appoints a fulltime vice-chancellor,” said Sugata Bose, the chairman of the mentor group after getting the report hand delivered to the chief minister.
The report has urged the government to allow Sarkar to continue in office till June 2015.
“We need continuity and stability at Presidency until and beyond the Appointed Day. On the advice of Professor Amartya Sen, we unanimously and respectfully request the chancellor in consultation with the education minister to extend Malabika Sarkar’s term as vicechancellor until June 30, 2015, by invoking the relevant provisions of sections 55 and 57 of the Presidency University Act. This will be in the best interests of a new university where the first constitutions of authority have not yet been completed,” the report stated.
In fact, the nine-member mentor group has a different opinion from that of the state government.
“The Presidency University Act does not have any provision which speaks about the age bar on the interim vice-chancellor. On the contrary, the transition period of Presidency has been kept very flexible. Hence, we do not see any problem with the current vice-chancellor continuing. Her continuation in office is necessary to ensure that the transition happens smoothly,” said Bose.
The report has also requested the government to sanction the supporting officers and staff she needs for the efficient functioning of the university.
It also points out how the fulltime vice-chancellor should be appointed.
“After the Appointed Day, a high-powered search committee should be instituted under the terms of the PU Act to conduct a national and international search for a distinguished vice-chancellor to take charge from July 1, 2015, for a four-year term. This will make for an orderly transition once the university has reached a steady state,” the report says.
In addition to these, the mentor group has also urged the government to constitute search committees to look for five ‘heritage’ professors.
It also wants Presidency to complete the construction of its second campus at Rajarhat in three phases. The first phase should complete by 2015.