Never perhaps has the convocation of Jadavpur University (‘special’ or conventional) been held in so ugly a circumstance as it was on Tuesday. True the wings of the Governor/Chancellor have been clipped by the higher education department almost to the point of reducing the rarefied office to irrelevance. Having said that, the renewed controversy begs the question whether it was really necessary to treat Mr Jagdeep Dhankar so shabbily on what was intrinsically an academic occasion? There was no call for the students to raucously raise slogans against the NRC/CAA controversy to bar the Chancellor from entering the campus. To say the least, this chimed oddly with the spirit of the convocation.
The ViceChancellor, the executive council, the court and also, of course, the students owe an answer. It has turned out to be a game of putrid shadow-boxing. The supreme insult to Raj Bhavan was conveyed from the supposedly rarefied dais as a photograph in this newspaper reveals ~ the place card that was earmarked on the high table for “Sri Dhankar, Hon’ble Chancellor” was almost deliberately turned upside down. And seated on his chair was the ViceChancellor, Prof Suranjan Das.
Ironically enough, the hilarity of the occasion is manifest in this newspaper’s visual. Who authorised this distortion, one that reflects abysmally on a centre of excellence, now striving for the Institution of Eminence embroidery? The chair could have been kept vacant with the place card in place. Academic excellence remains the hallmark of Jadavpur University; but it has stumbled on virtually every other parameter, notably student discipline or more accurately the lack of it, the kerfuffle over admission tests, and now the conduct of the convocation, not to forget the occasional reports of sexual harassment.
It is pretty obvious that the university authorities abided by the guidelines of the higher education department (aka its Principal Secretary). Thus was the Governor accorded the short shrift on Day One, when the special convocation was scheduled, but postponed in view of the tension. On Day Two, the Chancellor made an attempt to attend the conventional convocation, almost routinely held on 24 December, but was turned away by the students at the gate. Thus has the university played along with the animosity of the state government. Going by the rules of engagement, it is the Chancellor who gives the nod to the convocation date. Small wonder he was compelled to bare his angst ~ “This is a sad day for democracy, a sad day for educational institutions. This is a shame on the system and the rule of law.”
As it turns out, of riveting interest on the day of the convocation was the putrid spat between the Chancellor and the VC over the phone. “You are ruining the university,” said the Chancellor. “Sir, if I were ruining the university, how is it doing so well in the national rankings?” was the Vice-Chancellor’s sharp retort. To cut a long story short, Jadavpur University deserves better. This is quite the most charitable construct that can be placed upon Tuesday’s convocation and the deferment of the “special” edition.