JNUTA Note on the Letter from the VC’s Office dated 23rd March 2016 regarding appointment of Deans, Chairpersons, Provosts, Wardens, etc.


Jawaharlal Nehru University Teachers Association


April 4, 2016

Since its very inception, JNU has followed a norm whereby the positions of Deans of Schools and Chairpersons of Centres are held for definite durations by individual faculty members through a system of rotation based on seniority. Both the non-discretionary nature of the system as well as the principle of rotation have contributed towards the objective of preventing excessive centralization of powers in any office or in the hands of any individual. Rotation also contributes to a widespread accumulation of experience of the work these positions involve. These objectives remain important ones as they are critical to the maintenance of a healthy democratic atmosphere conducive to the collective pursuit of the objectives for which the University exists.

The proposal of the Vice-Chancellor clearly seeks to introduce a modification in the system of appointment of Deans and Chairpersons which undermines the abovementioned objectives and goes against the ethos of the University. On the one hand, a system where appointments of Chairpersons and Deans has to be preceded and subject to the VC having a ‘discussion’ with them on “issues relating to Schools/ Centres / Departments/ Programmes and their vision for the future” is degrading and demeaning for the individual faculty members concerned and compromises in the process the collective dignity of the faculty. It also centralizes too much power in the hands of the Vice Chancellor and makes the Deans and Chairpersons primarily accountable to the Vice-Chancellor. The selection process suggested also has the structural potential of pitting individual faculty members against each other – which, apart from vitiating the atmosphere also negatively affects the harmonious functioning of the Schools/Centres.

The proposals with regard to selection of wardens and provosts, where there is already significant discretionary power, are also in the direction of centralizing the power even further – they would therefore represent a movement in the wrong direction.

For these reasons, the attempt at changing the process for appointment of Deans and Chairpersons must be considered as one with extremely far-reaching implications which are completely unacceptable. The current system has functioned well for the following reasons:

  1. It is the most transparent system since everyone in a School or Centre knows who the next Dean/Chairperson is going to be.

  2. The logic behind rotation on the basis of seniority is clearly understandable to all faculty members since it does away with any subjectivity in selecting Deans and Chairpersons

  3. It creates checks and balances within Schools and Centres since Deans/Chairpersons are aware that they are not Heads because of any patronage system and they have to take the whole faculty along for any decision-making

  4. The rotation system also creates democratic space in terms of fearless articulation of views in various bodies like Board of Studies, Academic Council and Executive Council. Subjecting colleague to any other system may create a culture of sycophancy and silence.

  5. Rotation system provides legitimacy to the incumbent Heads of Centres/Schools. If the seniority principle is violated there will be crisis of governance since there will be less or no acceptability for persons selected otherwise.

  6. Rotation system also keeps the administration free from charges of bias towards various view points or social groups.

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