New DU V-C takes charge, says will focus on infra, recruitment
Multiple protests by several student groups broke out on the DU campus against the high cutoff marks for undergraduate courses and also against the controversial remarks made by DU’s Kirori Mal College professor Rakesh Pandey
Continuous recruitment of teachers over the next five years, upgrading university infrastructure to tackle a possible third wave of the Covid-19 pandemic, implementation of the new National Education Policy, reopening of campuses in a phased manner, working on the teacher-student ratio, and understanding the DU merit-based admission process – these are some of the priority areas highlighted by Yogesh Singh, Delhi University’s 23rd vice-chancellor, after he took over charge on Friday.
The day also saw multiple protests on the campus by several student groups against the high cutoff marks for undergraduate courses and also against the controversial remarks made by DU’s Kirori Mal College professor Rakesh Pandey, who had used a communally sensitive and derogatory term, “marks jihad”, to contend that students from Kerala were being given higher marks in Class 12 so that they could take over the country’s top higher education institutes.
When asked about the protests, Singh said, “We will speak to students and listen to their concerns on the process and then consult all stakeholders in the university to see how these concerns can be addressed.”
Several students’ outfits – All India Students Association (AISA), National Students’ Union of India (NSUI), and Students’ Federation of India (SFI) – held protests against Pandey’s remarks with NSUI demanding his termination from service and AISA his suspension.
This year, colleges such as Hindu College, Ramjas College, and Shri Ram College of Commerce were among the eight colleges that set 100% cutoffs for several of their courses. Several members of the admissions committee in these colleges said most of the students admitted to these high cutoff courses are from the Kerala state board.
Meanwhile, Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), the student wing of the Bharatiya Janata Party, has demanded that the admission process be stopped immediately to start a preliminary screening of students as students from state boards “where marks have been inflated are being able to take admissions”.
Speaking on the cutoff process, V-C Singh said he wants to first understand the whole cutoff based admission process in DU. “While IP University admissions are based on entrance exams and DTU relies on Joint Entrance Examination (JEE), DU has been following a merit-based admission process involving cutoffs for many years. If reforms are required, the deans, heads of departments, and principals should advise and we will see if something needs to be done,” he said.
Singh was the vice-chancellor of Delhi government-run Delhi Technological University (DTU), an institute he joined in 2015, till he took over the DU V-C.
Before that, Singh served as the director of Netaji Subhas Institute of Technology (now known as Netaji Subhas University of Technology) between 2014 and 2017. Between 2015 and 2017, he handled the charges of both DTU and NSIT. Singh has also served in various administrative and academic roles at the Guru Gobind Singh Indraprastha University.
On Friday, speaking to media persons during an informal interaction, Singh said he wants to strengthen the implementation of DU rules and statutes while working on maintaining the “soul of the university”. The 55-year-old vice-chancellor will be holding meetings with various stakeholders in the coming days to discuss their issues and take their opinions.
Singh’s predecessor Yogesh Tyagi was suspended in October last year, over “dereliction of duty” particularly with regards to the slow recruitment of permanent teachers.
“Recruitment should not and will not be a one-time activity. It will be done on a regular basis for the next five years. Around 252 positions have already been advertised and we will continue to work on recruitment and will be active on the matter,” Singh said, adding that the teacher-student ratio prescribed by University Grants Commission (UGC) will be maintained in the university.
On reopening the university to all students, Singh said, “We will reopen the university but it will be done in a gradual manner for the safety of our students. We don’t know how the third wave of the pandemic will be and want to exercise caution, especially in the aftermath of the devastating second wave.”
Currently, final-year undergraduate and postgraduate students of the varsity are allowed to return to colleges and departments for practical work or for academic consultations.
Singh said he would also ensure that the medical infrastructure in the university is upgraded to deal with Covid-19 cases, if any. “We will upgrade the existing medical infrastructure to make both short- and long-term arrangements,” he said.
Teachers’ group National Democratic Teachers’ Front issued statement welcoming Singh to the varsity. “NDTF is expecting him to carry out much awaited regularisation of existing ad hoc teachers in departments and colleges. The left out agenda of promotions needs to be taken up expeditiously,” said NDTF president AK Bhagi.
There are over 4,100 ad hoc teachers in DU, who work on a contractual basis without benefits such as maternity leave. Various teacher bodies in the varsity have been pressing for the regularisation of these teachers. “We will try to understand the issue of ad hoc teachers, consult stakeholders, and see if there is some way out,” the new V-C promised.