Unaddressed concerns at KU

It is high time that much-needed changes in the University are effected to bring the derailed system back on track without any more delay
Kashmir University
Kashmir UniversityFile/ GK

It has been more than two months since new Vice Chancellor (VC) of the Kashmir University (KU) Prof Neelofar Khan took charge of the coveted position amid the prestigious tag of becoming the first woman VC of the University.

The appointment was rightly hailed by cross sections of society. Soon after taking charge on May 20, the new VC mentioned her areas of focus that included smooth implementation of National Education Policy-2020, addressing grievances of students and faculty members and bringing 'gradual' changes in the overall set up to take the University forward on the right track.

In fact the new VC went to the extent of saying in a social media interview that she knows every tree in the Kashmir University and every tree knows her, thereby implying that she is aware of who is who in the system and where the rot lies.

In view of this statement it was expected by all stakeholders that the new VC will work without wasting any time and bring the much-needed reforms and changes to infuse life into the University that was plagued with chaos, confusion, uncertainty and mess since the search committee was constituted some five months ago to appoint the new VC.

Notably, the new VC took over at the end of her illustrious career in the University spanning more than three decades during which she served the University in various capacities. She also took over in the atmosphere of serious allegations of mismanagement, favouritism and corruption in the University which led to probes by investigating agencies like Anti-Corruption Bureau and Crime Branch.

This implied that the VC had taken over the University at a time when the system was considered to be rotten and marred with mismanagement and allegations of malpractices.

Thus all stakeholders developed expectations and hopes that the new VC, the Senior-Most Professor of the University, will address all these grave issues with urgency and seriousness and thus plug the rot and end malpractices for the greater good of the institution.

In fact, in an interview to an online news portal, the VC herself assured that “she will make changes gradually and rectify the wrongdoings" when she was asked about alleged wrongdoings that have happened.

However more than two months have passed since the new VC took over but nothing much has changed on the ground, according to many university teachers and students who have already started feeling dejected and disappointed with administrative inaction.

“If no change is visible to people, there is nothing to feel upbeat about,” said one senior teacher, wishing anonymity. “The new VC is from within the institution. So she cannot hide under the pretext that she needs time to make changes and set things right. By that time, the rot would be much deeper.”

Students have their own grievances which have not been addressed so far despite the VC promising them that all their grievances would be addressed. “During our interaction with VC madam and DSW madam we were assured that battery operated vehicles in the campus will be started again for our convenience. But nothing has happened in this regard,” said a specially-abled research scholar.

Many students said that barring one or two faculties, the DSW has not interacted with students from other faculties like Biological Sciences to listen to their grievances.

Even senior faculty members who spoke to Greater Kashmir on the condition of anonymity allege that the “system in the University has come to a standstill”.

“Our worthy VC visits teaching departments to check punctuality and attendance. It is a good step. But punctuality and other good practices have to be followed in the Administration where there are serious issues. What is the justification for not making changes?” said a Senior Professor.

Students say there has been a considerable delay in making admissions to Ph.D, making the aspirants anxious. “The 2021 admission process for Ph.D in some departments has still not ended. The 2022 admission process is yet to start. The Research Section is in mess,” said an aspirant for Ph.D programme. “We don’t know when the Entrance Examination for Ph.D programmes in Social Sciences will be held. We have been waiting for many months. We go to Dean Research office daily but nobody is answering to our queries.”

Allegations of favouritism in selections have continued to galore. Aspirants for posts of Assistant Registrars have appealed to LG publicly for a probe into appointment process for lapsed posts of Assistant Registrars after alleging hanky-panky in the Mains selection process. They have alleged that merit was ignored as these posts were not readvertised after their validity had ended.

Senior teachers also allege that there is also no clear policy with regard to appointment of faculty members on administrative positions as “One Person, One Post Policy” is not followed. Nearly a dozen teachers and officers are holding administrative positions as Additional Charge. The Dean Students Welfare is also HOD of Sociology and Provost of Girls Hostel is also HOD Hindi. Joint Registrar Budget is holding charge of University Health Centre in contravention of all rules and regulations despite two Medical Officers available in the Health Centre. The Registrar is holding additional charge of Director Convocation and Additional Charge of Director State Resource Center. Librarian is holding Additional Charge of HoD Political Science and Dean Research is holding additional charge of Dean Social Sciences.

HoD Economics is also holding Charge of HoD Political Science. Director DIQA is holding additional charge of Coordinator RUSA. Director North Campus is holding additional charge of Director Kupwara Campus. Dean Education is also holding additional charge of Director Sports.

Many senior teachers even feel that they are "no longer respected in decision-making by the adminstration which has been hijacked by a select group of Joint Registrars".

No doubt the VC has interacted with students and Faculty Members, besides visiting Departments to listen to students in labs and classes. But if action is not taken to address grievances of students and faculty members, then it will be a futile exercise without any results. If faculty members feel dejected with the administrative chaos, then it will only make functioning of the VC difficult with each passing day.

The KU is presently in the process of implementing NEP-2020. Admission is presently taking place in Affiliated Colleges of the University under NEP scheme. At PG level also NEP is to be implemented. However, it is seen that nothing worthwhile is happening in the University for smooth implementation of NEP at the PG level.

“There is hardly anyone who has really understood how NEP is to be implemented in the University. Futile lectures are held on NEP,” said a science teacher, adding that “the University should come up with a policy document on how it intends to ensure smooth NEP implementation in the University.”

To conclude, the new VC has a herculean task at hand. As argued previously in these columns, she needs to make changes which are visible on ground. She needs to listen to senior faculty and make a new inclusive beginning so that senior teachers do not feel left out or ignored.

Dragging feet on addressing lingering malpractices and making necessary changes in the University will only prove counter-productive for the VC and dent her image beyond repairs.

As one university faculty member put it: “To see wrongs happening and not acting against the wrongdoers is also a wrongdoing. In the eyes of law, to support a wrongdoer is to become an accomplice in crime.” The new VC needs to crack the whip before it is too late.

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