Millennium Post

Is Dinesh Singh JNU’s V-C as well?

One never thinks of battles unless they are at the doorsteps. No distant sound of drones or gunfire can shake a sleeping ‘academic’ out of her stupor as much as a faint realisation that a school of thought is on the brink of destruction. I admit of the same – though I can barely be called an academic anymore.

As some worthies in Delhi University battle on to fend off the disastrous FYUP, JNU, which was all along lying in its idyllic setting under the scorching summer sun pitting Marx against new schools of thought, seems to have lost the battle even before it started.

Sources told our education reporter that JNU has sent a proposal to the University Grants Commission (UGC) under the innovation university scheme for starting under graduate school in the university. Though JNU V-C SK Sopory confirmed such a proposal has indeed been sent to the UGC, he chose not to answer whether it was for a three-year or four-year course. The story, though,   was in newspaper parlance ‘sexy’ enough to be frontpaged. Read it here...
And it gave me the jitters.

The very thought had us, the JNU types, wide awake from our research-induced slumber. This was too much storm in our stained tea cups. Breaking it down to basics, when one sits down to understand the FYUP, no academic will ever be able to find any sliver of educational worth in it. The debate has raged long and hard and by the end of it we know that if the FYUP comes to force, a basic graduation programme, that equipped students out of school to learn to specialise and in time pick the stream they want to work further with, will be reduced to a retarded sort of finishing school that will neither leave them with a worthwhile degree nor the knowledge.

We know of the exit points, we know of those eleven mindless courses that Dinesh Singh is lobbying for. None of it makes an iota of sense. Not to DU and as the battles come home – neither to Jawaharlal Nehru University.

JNU (established in 1969) was built with the objective to make the university a premier institution of higher learning and to promote research and teaching leading to the increasing engagement of its students and teachers in higher level academic work and national and international policy making. I don’t claim so, Wikipedia does. I agree.

JNU has always stood out as one of the finest schools of thought across the country. It has been known for its highly educated faculty, the number of doctorate scholars it churns out every year and most importantly the varsity is known to create thinkers, intellectuals and thought leaders. There is a long list of well-known JNU alumni in every commendable work of life. Enough said. JNU isn’t only about those civil services aspirants – and believe you me- the FYUP will make no difference to them. 

JNU is about a host of scholars who have consciously chosen this school of thought to be able to delve in research, debate and scholarship of worth. Alternately, JNU already has some undergraduate courses available on campus in the foreign language courses in the School of Languages – namely in German, Russian, Korean, Japanese, Chinese and few other departments. So how can getting in an entire ungraduate programme be a bad thing if the institute is half as well-equipped as one claims?

The problem is multi-pronged. For starters, JNU might actually be ill-equipped to house an undergraduate programme. Fresh out of school students need a whole different medium of education that an university that has specialised in post graduate courses for years be unable to successfully provide. Assuming, if that is taken care of marginally insofar that undergraduates are taken in whole-sale – more professors will need to be taken on board. As most JNUites will tell you anyway – most of our departments are understaffed. This is point two. JNU will be going the DU way then, rather then fortifying the system that is already in place to offer better education, more professors will have to be taken in at lower levels to teach this whole new batch of students across departments in various schools.

The third bone of contention is a matter of space. While one knows that JNU has enough space to make another university within its boundaries – students have been told repeatedly by the DSW (Dean of Students Welfare) that there isn’t enough space to make another hostel, they cannot provide accomodation to one and all. If that is the case, where exactly is JNU going to house this whole batch of undergraduates or class them?

The heart and soul of JNU has always been in its hostels. Unless Sopory plans to cater only to 
Delhities in this new undergraduate programme – this plan is spiralling into disaster already and the talks have just started. No hostels mean more money needed for 
accommodation for out-station 
students, And this is above and beyond the extra money he or she will need to pool in the extended four year programme. JNU was all about subsidised education. Dear Sir, where is this extra money going to come from? Because under no circumstances do we see a subsidised FYUP programme coming up on offer – DU has no such plans. If JNU enforces one such – it could be a fitting reply to DU on rather petty grounds, but I think the battle lies elsewhere.

A premier institute that has been the perfect haven for out-station scholars for years is clearly speeding up to destroy itself. The very game that made it a bastion of intellectual and political thought for decades. This retarded mode of thought control is something we can well do without, our education has taught us to think for ourselves and as has JNU – don’t try to take that away.

All smaller problems aside, the FYUP is not going to create market-ready students. It plans to function as a well oiled factory line but all that it is going to churn out are faulty subalterns in thought and deed who will fit in nowhere. Neither in postgraduate classes nor in board rooms. The last thing JNU needs is a bit of that blood on its hands. The left bastion of intellect should know better than to go the DU way. If a hike in application form price is worth a debate and a hunger strike – as is the decision to serve (or not to serve) beef in hostels and as is the much feared GSCASH – why not debate the pros and the cons of the programme out dear VC? Why send in a discrete letter to UGC without consulting the massive student body and all our highly educated professors?

The author is Assistant Editor at Millennium Post
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