DTF Memorandum to VC, 18-1-2011

A delegation of DTF office-bearers and elected representatives on the EC and AC met the Vice-Chancellor today and submitted the following memorandum:

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Professor Dinesh Singh
Vice Chancellor
University of Delhi
Delhi 110007

18 January 2011

Dear Professor Singh,

The University is going through a process of transformation in the wake of OBC Expansion, the UGC Regulations and academic restructuring. The next few years will be very crucial and there is a need to develop mechanisms which would not only stabilize the system but result in the creation of an environment conducive for the growth of this institution of liberal education. In this context we wish to draw your attention to some of the important issues that demand urgent attention.

1. Academic Reforms

You would agree that the reputation of our University as one of the premier institutions of higher education in the country is based significantly on its undergraduate teaching. This has been marked by years of diligent efforts by its teachers, even in the most adverse circumstances in regard to service conditions and infrastructure. Teachers have worked with the belief that nothing less than their intervention within and outside the class room would make a difference. They have wholeheartedly participated in institution building, much beyond the call of duty.

Many academic reforms were conceived by the teachers and brought in by their hard work. The University Calender through its rules laid down for revision of courses provides for processes to involve teachers both at College and Department levels in generating courses and frameworks that make teaching-learning at the University of Delhi valuable. These processes have been severely eroded of late and need to be restored if we want to maintain the academic quality of teaching-learning in this University.

The decision taken to introduce the semester system without wider debate in the AC and outside despite serious academic concerns expressed by teachers essentially over a semester system in a large affiliating university is against any norm of academic decision making. The apprehensions and concerns of undergraduate teachers on the matter should have been communicated to the UGC to rethink as to whether the stated objectives for semesterisation can be met or whether in terms of content and pedagogy there would be a regress. A premier university should express its considered view on public policy and not uncritically accept whatever is suggested. The University of Delhi has a robust annual system with continuous assessment. There are problems with continuous assessment which must be redressed. These problems will only get aggravated by ill-considered semesterisation.

The restructuring of only one programme, the B.A. programme, despite our reservations, followed two years of debate through many seminars and workshops held at various venues throughout the university. The proposed semesterisation through a nominated “Empowered” committee not accessible for dialogue to formulate a framework is unacceptable. The structure proposed by it limits the number of papers, leading to reduction in content or otherwise of overpacking, reduces options and does away with interdisciplinarity. For example, the slots for interdisciplinary papers introduced in the recent past in the BA Programme and B.A (Hons) Programme do not exist in the empowered committee framework. The major-minor scheme too regresses on existing interdisciplinarity and its implications need to be discussed thoroughly. No committee, however, can override the statutory authority such as that of the AC which needs to discuss the academic framework thoroughly and evolve a view. Honest academics require openness to debate and courage to take a stand. If the Government wishes to impose changes and not consider points raised by the academic community, let that be known.

As regards the thirteen science courses forced into semesterisation this year, the structure and course content demonstrates the problems outlined above. The structure has come with reduced choices for the students and a decrease in the interdisciplinary content. The much advocated need to shift to the semester system – increase in the flexibility of the system – is altogether absent in the structure. It would, therefore, be not enough to just do minor corrections in the syllabi of these 13 science courses but to discuss the entire process afresh.

We urge you, therefore, to re-open the debate of desirability and feasibility of the semester system as a mode of undergraduate teaching at our University and to initiate the process before any more damage is done to the system in the name of academic reform.

Further, it is important for the University to develop mechanisms which will ensure periodic review of our policies. The following recent academic reforms await such review: semesterisation of M.A. and M.Sc. Courses, the guidelines for internal assessment, and the system of central evaluation.

2. OBC Expansion

With this academic session (2010-11), we have completed the last phase of expansion. With the 54% increase in the number of students there is a tremendous pressure on existing infrastructure and manpower. Little has been done as yet to adequately address the needs of students and teachers in Colleges and Departments as a result of this huge expansion. Appropriate infrastructure needs to be developed on a priority basis and problems with regard to building laws and land usage need to be taken up with the concerned authorities. Mechanisms also need to be put in place to monitor the timely and appropriate use of funds sanctioned for this purpose. Filling up of the new teaching positions created on account of the expansion must also be done forthwith.

The expansion has also resulted in the need to define the optimal number of students for each class and to divide the present number of students into sections. As of now University guidelines defining the “sanctioned strength of a class” for various courses do not exist. As a result there is arbitrariness in the way Colleges are dealing with the situation. The University needs to formulate guidelines for this at the earliest, and definitely before the beginning of the next academic session.

3. UGC Regulations of 2010

The system of quantification of teachers’ activities through the PBAS – Performance Based Appraisal System – is utterly irrational; it will lead to denial of promotions, making the profession unattractive for talent as it would encourage obsession with score building and fraudulent practices rather than commitment and quality, both in teaching and in research. The insistence on research also shows a complete lack of understanding of the workload of College teachers. It also does not take into account that each subject has its own requirements and pace of research. Much as the task ahead is to create Ordinances regarding promotion rules, we appeal to you, as the Vice Chancellor of this premier University, to take up the issue of the PBAS with the UGC on a priority basis and help in its withdrawal.

Further, we wish to remind you that promotions are long overdue in many Departments. We request you to ensure that the backlog is cleared in a time-bound manner.

4. Report on the ‘Cobalt 60’ incident

Almost a year has passed since the criminal sale of a Gamma Cell containing radioactive Cobalt-60 to a scrap dealer. We wish to remind you that one person died and the health of several others was severely affected. It is matter of shame for the university community that not only has the crime gone unpunished but a premier institution of education has failed to bring forth a report that would show application of mind and a desire to do justice. The Committee set up by Prof Deepak Pental, the then VC, turned out to be a farce. This Committee consisting of “eminent” scientists accepted that the scientists involved in the disposal of the Gamma cell did not know that gamma had anything to do with radioactivity! The Committee did not inquire into Prof. Pental’s public statement that there was a miscalculation of the half-life of the radioactive material. The person(s) who miscalculated remain unnamed. The fact is that the disposal was done in unseemly hurry with the approval of the then VC and PVC. While the Committee admitted that the Department of Chemistry was not consulted, it still held the Department and not any individual(s) responsible.

In the EC meeting held in October last year, a decision was forced through, despite protests from the elected EC members, to appoint yet another subcommittee to look into the lukewarm report submitted by the Committee.

It has been more than two months since you joined as the Vice Chancellor of this University. We hope that you will agree on the need to bring the truth to light without any further delay and to ensure that action is taken against those found responsible for such criminal negligence.

5. Guidelines for Ad hoc Appointments

The system of ad hoc appointments has to be changed on a priority basis. While the new guidelines (duly approved by the Executive Council at its meeting held on 27.12.2007 vide Resolution No. 120(8)), streamlined the process of making panels by the Departments and defined the selection committees, the provision of interview after every four months has rendered young teachers vulnerable and insecure and has adversely affected the students through frequent changes in teachers. It was agreed in the AC in the summer of 2005 that the tenure of ad hoc appointments should be for a whole academic session. There were differences over some other points while considering the Agnihotri Committee Report. It is unfortunate that the four months tenure has been reiterated leading to harassment of young talent and students alike. It ought to be re-opened for decision at the earliest.

6. Arbitrariness over NET

The seesaw played by the UGC and the MHRD over exemption of MPhil from NET must stop. Those who had been exempted must remain exempted from NET. We appeal to you to take this up with the UGC.

7. Reservation in Teaching Positions

Manipulations of the reservation rosters in the University and Colleges must stop. The AC and the EC must be allowed to take appropriate decisions on the UGC guidelines for implementation of SC/ST reservation. Reservation for OBCs and the differently-abled must be implemented with clear guidelines.

8. Recognition of Teachers in Medical and Other Professional Colleges

The process of recognition of teachers in the Medical and other Professional Colleges of the University needs to be streamlined since inordinate delay in such recognition continues resulting in regular harassment of teachers and in academic malfunctioning of the concerned institutions.

9. Housing Facilities

With the increase in the number of faculty members and with inclusion policies which have helped the University to attain a vibrant and diverse complexion, it is important that the University explore the possibilities to generate housing facilities both in the Colleges and University Departments without which it would be difficult to attract talent.

There is also the continuing problem of complete lack of transparency in allotment of existing housing facilities. We urge you to set in place a transparent system and ensure that vacant houses are allotted without delay. The University must also address the specific needs of the more vulnerable such as single women teachers and teachers in the PH category.

In recent years the number of faculty members in the PH category has gone up in the University Departments and Colleges. It is important that our colleagues in this category be provided appropriate facilities so that they can give of their best and this policy of inclusion becomes truly meaningful. One of the primary difficulties they face is in finding suitable housing and the best solution is that they be allotted on-campus accommodation. In the complete absence of any guidelines (or if they exist, then their communication to all relevant authorities), the allotment to any such member rests completely on the approach of the deciding authorities. It is important that the University frames guidelines regarding this and allotments be made to the members in this category on a priority basis. The University also needs to find ways to resolve this problem for the members in this category who teach in colleges that do not have any accommodation.

10. Child Care Leave

Child care leave provided under the Sixth Pay Commission to further empower women is being effectively denied because full time appointments cannot be made against the resultant vacancies. The benefit of this leave will come to teachers only if provision is made for such appointments. It is important that the University pursues this with the UGC and guidelines regarding this be framed at the earliest. Information regarding its status should also be made available on the University website.

11. Medical Benefits

The restricted operation of the direct payment system and the scheme of reimbursing only at CGHS rates even when hospital charges are much higher are causing substantial hardship. A scheme of full reimbursement must be put in place. The University must explore the possibility of extending schemes like the CGHS card, available to teachers in JNU, to teachers of our University.

12. Disbursement of Pension

To help the retired members of the University, we request that the University consider the idea of crediting the monthly pension to the place of residence of the concerned teacher through e-banking.

13. Rates for Guest Lectures in the NCWEB

Whereas rates for Guest Lectures have been enhanced everywhere else in accordance with the UGC guidelines to Rs. 1000/- per lecture, this has not been done for the NCWEB. Immediate steps must be taken to implement the guidelines in the NCWEB with retrospective effect.

14. School of Open Learning

The conversion of the School of Correspondence Courses into the School of Open Learning was supposed to initiate a process of expansion and improvement of the distance-learning mode in the University. Instead it has led to rapid decline of this mode with vacancies in teaching positions not being filled over several years. The lakhs of students dependent on this mode for their education are being deprived of the minimal requirements for learning. Urgent steps are required to fill the vacant positions and create the basis for improving the distance-learning mode.

15. Faculty of Technology

Urgent steps are required to keep the Faculty of Technology within the fold of the University. There are grave apprehensions about its closure following the de-affiliation of the Delhi College of Engineering and similar moves with regard to the Netaji Subhas Institute of Technology (NSIT).

We have drawn your attention here to some of the issues that need your urgent attention. There are several other important issues that we would like to take up with you subsequently.

We agree that you have a mammoth task ahead that can be addressed only through the cooperation of all sections of the University community. In order to ensure such cooperation the impasse that currently exists between authorities at various levels and the teaching community has to come to an end. For this the University authorities, and the Vice-Chancellor in particular, have to communicate through their actions that they value the participation of teachers, who have always contributed towards institution building and hope to continue to do so in the future. We express our hope that you will demonstrate your readiness to end the impasse and take appropriate steps to deal with the issues outlined above.

With regards,
Yours sincerely,

Shaswati Mazumdar
President

Rajeev Kunwar
Secretary

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