NEW DELHI: Amid outrage after news broke that the JNU administration had asked Romila Thapar to submit her CV for assessment for continuation as emeritus professor, it has now emerged that the eminent historian was not the only one asked to do so.
Ten other emeritus professors, including ex-JNU vice-chancellor and top molecular biologist Asis Datta, were also asked to give their resumes to the registrar this July. The others are R Rajaraman, H S Gill, C K Varshney, Ashok Sanjay Guha, Yogendra Singh, D Banerji, T K Oommen, Amit Bhaduri and Sheila Bhalla.
Theoretical physicist R Rajaraman said, “When I was made professor emeritus 15 years ago, the letter said it was for life.” As per an Oct 2018 ordinance, JNU has to write to those above 75 to know their willingness to continue their association with the university.
Gill served as a professor of linguistics at the university from 1984 to 2000, while Varshney taught at its School of Environment Studies between 1990 and 1992. Guha was a professor at JNU’s School of International Studies. Singh founded the Centre for the Study of Social Systems in 1971. Singh, Banerji, Bhaduri, Bhalla and Oommen are from the School of Social Sciences, the same department as Thapar.
Following the controversy, JNU on Sunday had issued a statement saying that letters were written only to those emeritus professors who are beyond the age of 75.
“Writing these letters as per the ordinance is not for discontinuation but for an informed review by the executive council, the highest statutory body of the University,” the statement said.Thapar confirmed that she had received the letter and cited Professor Emeritus Prabhat Patnaik’s article as her response. “Yes, I did receive the letter from the registrar and I replied,” she said.In the article, Patnaik said the current executive council of the JNU “seems to be unaware of even the meaning of an emeritus professorship”.
“It seems to think that it is an appointment against a post for which there are multiple applications. An emeritus position is completely different. There are no posts and nobody ever applies for it. It is an honour conferred for life by the university on a retiring or retired professor in appreciation of their outstanding past work,” he said.
‘Didn’t feel bad about it’
R Rajaraman, who served as a professor of theoretical physics at JNU from 1993 to 2004, said he has replied to the registrar’s letter asking for his CV and added he “didn’t feel bad about it”.
He said some of them have already sent their replies, including Thapar.
Those who have not sent their replies will be sent reminders and after their replies are received, a committee will review their CVs.
Kumar said that even internationally, the professor emeritus position is not a permanent position.
"The decision (to ask for their CVs) was taken by the university's Executive Council," he said.
Former JNU VC Datta is an eminent molecular biologist and educationist who was conferred the Padma Shri in 1999 and the Padma Bhushan, the country's third-highest civilian award, in 2008.
He is a recipient of the Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar Prize and the Priyadarshini Award.
Prof.Datta is an elected fellow of all three major Indian Science Academies as well as the "Third World Academy of Sciences".
He was the eighth vice-chancellor of the varsity and the founder-director of the National Institute of Plant Genome Research.
Professor Rajaraman did his PhD under Nobel laureate Hans Bethe.
Bethe had won Nobel Prize in Physics in 1967 for his work on the theory of stellar nucleosynthesis.
The Jawaharlal Nehru University Teachers' Association (JNUTA) had said on Sunday that the JNU administration's decision to ask 87-year-old Thapar to submit her CV was "politically motivated".
Soon after the JNUTA statement, the university said it was following its ordinance "in letter and spirit" in the appointment of professor emeritus at JNU.
"As per the ordinance, the university is required to write to all those who have attained the age of 75 years to know their availability and their willingness to continue their association with the university. Letters have been written only to those emeritus professors who fall in this category," it said.
It explained writing these letters is not for discontinuation but for an informed review by the Executive Council, the highest statutory body of the university, and it is consistent with the practices at other reputed universities such as Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Princeton University.