EC meeting on 6 March 2014

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Item 2C-2/- proposes appending the UGC Code of Professional Ethics to Ordinances XI and XII and enforcing it as an actionable Code of Conduct. The proposed amendments are not acceptable on the following count:

  1. As per Statute 8 (ii) “Subject to the Act, Statutes and Ordinances, the Academic Council shall, in addition to all other powers vested in it, have the following powers, namely:

    (ii) to make recommendations to the Executive Council with regard to-

      • (a) the creation of teaching posts in the University and colleges maintained by the University and the abolition thereof, and

      • (b) the classification of posts referred to in sub-item (a) and their emoluments and the duties attached thereto.”

Thus the duties of teachers come under the purview of the Academic Council. The Code of Professional Ethics, that is a set of guidelines for several duties of a teacher, should first be placed before the Academic Council.

  1. The Code of Professional Ethics provided by the UGC Regulations 2010, Clause 17.0 is a document encapsulating the ideals of the teaching profession and teachers’ role in relation to the various constituents of the University, the Society at large and the Nation. The proposed amendments seek to make this Code of Ethics, which is supposed to serve as a guide for teachers, into a Code of Conduct, based on which “misconduct” can be determined and action taken.

  2. Whereas the Code of Ethics is an encapsulation of the ideals of the teaching profession, many of its clauses are so subjective that if they are made actionable, they may be misused through biased interpretation:

      • I. Clause II (x) states that “teachers should refrain from inciting students against other students, colleagues or administration” which may be used to punish any democratic expression of disagreement or criticism of the administration.

      • II. Clause I (vi) by which a teacher can be charged with misconduct, even while performing his/her duties, for not doing so “conscientiously and with dedication”, opening the possibility for arbitrary and biased targeting of individual teachers.

  1. Concrete and objective clauses of the Code are already a part of teachers’ service conditions which are actionable through the existing provisions in the Ordinances. The current form of the Ordinances clearly spell out the disciplinary actions against teachers who absent themselves from classes and other duties, indulge in private tuitions or hold parallel professional engagements. The need to introduce a separate Code of Conduct cannot be explained.

  2. The additional amendment sought in the two above mentioned Ordinances wherein the power to initiate disciplinary action against any teacher who is found guilty of misconduct according to any interpretation of this Code is shifted to the person of the Vice-Chancellor. This in effect will undermine the idea of a University as a space for democratic and fearless exchange of ideas and the growth of critical thinking and democratic ideals. At present the power to take disciplinary action against teachers rests with the Executive Council / Governing Bodies with clear and laid down procedures. The move also undermines the federal character of the university.

  3. The proposed amendments have arbitrariness built into them. For Example the proposed Clause 1-B reads “…if the circumstances so warrant, failing which the Vice-Chancellor may take such action as may be deemed fit by him”. This clause leaves it for the VC to determine (i) misconduct, (ii) judgment of the circumstances and (iii) degree of punishment. The Clause does not provide any safeguard for the teacher. Neither does it spell out as to what will happen if the findings of the Governing Body are in contradiction to those of the Vice Chancellor. Similarly, it is not clear from proposed Clause 1-A (amendment to Ordinance XI) whether the action of the VC will be scrutinized by the EC or not. The current provisions are very well spelt out and have built into them checks and balances.

  4. The proposed amendments, which intend to empower the Vice Chancellor and leave it to him to interpret and judge misconduct on the basis of Code of Ethics, are against the very idea of a University. It is important here to read the vision underlined time and again by Education Commissions :

Radhakrishnan University Education Commission Report

      • Professional integrity requires that teachers should be as free to speak on controversial issues as any other citizens of a free country. An atmosphere of freedom is essential for developing this ‘morality of the mind’.

      • The Democratic Way of Life – Democracy as a way of life and not a mere political arrangement requires of its adherents a jealous regard not only for their own rights but equally for the similar rights of others. It is based on the principle of equal freedom and equal rights for all its members, regardless of race, religion, sex, occupation or economic status. Education is the great instrument of social emancipation by which a democracy establishes, maintains and protects the spirit of equality among its members.

      • Freedom of Conscience – If we develop the social temper of democracy we will have confidence in one another. We will allow freedom of conscience to others as it is our faith that others like ourselves are competent to work out their own salvation.

      • Students cannot learn these if the institutions are run on authoritarian lines. We cannot teach the lessons of freedom by the methods of servitude.

      • We cannot preserve real freedom unless we preserve the values of democracy, justice and liberty, equality and fraternity.

Report of the Task Force on Code of Professional ethics for University & College Teachers (1988)

The Code of Ethics provided by the UGC Regulations 2010 is drawn from the report of the Task Force set up by the UGC. The Report begins by first defining the rights of the teachers:

Teachers should enjoy full civic and political rights of our democratic country.

Abha Dev Habib

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