Call to resolve Governor-govt. standoff

Academics fear stalemate may affect administration of universities

Academics have called for mending of ties between Governor Arif Mohammed Khan and the State government to prevent a stalemate in the higher education sector. The unprecedented rift triggered by some disputed decisions has threatened to push universities into a long-drawn impasse.

Kerala State Higher Education Council vice chairman Rajan Gurukkal feels the issue is not irresolvable “since the grievance was normative rather than juridical”.

He also held the view that complaints about governmental interference in university affairs and with the Chancellor’s adjudicative privileges were value judgemental. “This could be because the Chancellor viewed as ideological the basis of the government’s advisory actions that are meant for institutional quality assurance and vice-versa,” he said.

External interference

Dismissing the allegations of external interference, he pointed out the government’s considered advice remained an “influential presence” behind the promulgation of the Governor’s critical sanctions, be it related to government or university orders.

“How can then the government’s advisory functions that are discharged through the (Higher Education) Minister or bureaucrats be considered as interventions,” he asked.

Prof. Gurukkal added such conflicts between the Chancellor and the government would not lead to an administrative impasse in universities, although they run the risk of delay in actions for which the former’s mandate is essential.

Nevertheless, the delay can be inordinate and thereby consequential if the disagreement results in the Chancellor’s non-cooperation and necessitated a legislative solution.

Unprecedented dissent

Noted educationist R.V.G. Menon, however, felt an openly expressed dissent by the Chancellor was unprecedented in the State. “It is conceivable that many Governors and even Vice Chancellors would have been quite unhappy about political interference in academic affairs. Such open dissents will lead to more caution and self-restraint on the part of political authorities,” he said.

At a time when the influence of the Governor on the higher education sector coming under intense scrutiny, he said the role in the form of Chancellorship is very important in bringing prestige and independence to the universities.

“But he or she should not become a source of influence from the Union government,” he cautioned.

According to him, many academic appointments, not just in universities but in private colleges too, often appear strange or inexplicable. Such instances have taken place in the past too.

“The motivation (of such decisions) might be political, communal or even financial. This certainly leads to a decline in academic standards and the demoralisation of the academic community,” Prof. Menon lamented.

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