BY RAJU NAYAK
The Goa University, once among the top institutions in the country, is in a mess. The previously gradual decay gained momentum in recent years. However, the media nor is the Goa Legislative Assembly raising any questions about the accusations of scams and scandals in the university.
The Goa University Teachers Association staged a protest this week to protest the intimidation and assault of the director of the Directorate of Student Welfare Professor Anthony Viegas by a student activist of the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP).
Apart from the issue of salary increment, this is the first time the Teachers Association has agitated in the university. This action of the teachers caused an internal dispute in the university.
Goa University’s autonomy was already threatened by the mismanagement of the university. Now, fed up with the state of affairs, Chief Minister Dr Pramod Sawant announced a constitutional change to make the education minister the pro-vice-chancellor of the university.
Apart from this loss of autonomy, other controversies in the university reveal shocking information. There is great dissatisfaction among the entire administration and teaching staff of the university.
Last month, the university suspended the assistant registrar (Law) Vardha D’Mello from service. D’ Mello knocked on the doors of the High Court against the order. The court upheld the dismissal as unconstitutional and reinstated her to the same post, bringing serious pressure on the functioning of the university.
Professor of Chemistry Dr Vivekananda Gobre was dismissed from his job by setting aside the report of the sub-superintendent of his branch and humiliating the senior sub-superintendent as well. This issue is currently sub judice.
Also, the court castigated the university over the scam in Kare Law College's entrance examination.
Recently, the convocation ceremony of the university was held under the chairmanship of President of India Draupadi Murmu. Within 24 hours of the ceremony, the registrar of examinations and former vice-principal of the government college chain Professor Ashok Chodankar had submitted his resignation.
Not even a year into his post, he’d brought qualitative improvement in examination results as well as in their planning. He is considered a skilled and efficient administrator.
Also, Sachin Sambhaji, who was appointed deputy registrar by the university, also resigned. Two more top officials of the university are on the verge of resigning as well.
The university administration has completely collapsed, but Vice-Chancellor Professor Harilal Menon is on a foreign tour. There is a feeling in the teaching and administrative community that Professor Menon gives special treatment to persons he favours.
A few years ago Manohar Parrikar School of Law, Governance and Public Policy, which includes the disciplines of Law, Public Administration, Women's Studies, Social Work, Tribal Studies and Disability Studies, was established as a tribute to the late chief minister of Goa.
A professor with no knowledge of law, governance and women's studies has been appointed as the dean of the school. Professors to teach the various courses have not been recruited despite advertising vacancies. Now technical courses are being introduced by reorganising the school.
By setting aside the requirement of a residence certificate, compulsory knowledge of the Konkani language and the reserved roster system, today, there is an entire generation educated in the university which holds professorships.
When Professor Menon took over the university, the university fell in the NAAC ranking. Professor Menon chose to blame all and sundry for the university’s woes, verbally abusing junior professors, admonishing them for their lack of academic accomplishments and threatening the denial of child care and study leave.
Even the senior professors have a bone to pick with the vice-chancellor. It is speculated that Professor Ashok Chodankar voluntarily resigned due to the volatile behaviour of the vice-chancellor.
Does Menon really have the support of the governor? Yes, Kerala connection, right?
Various complaints have been sent to the Directorate of Higher Education, the chief minister and the governor regarding the functioning of the present leadership of the university. CM Pramod Sawant’s earlier spat with Governor Satya Pal Malik is perhaps causing him to take a cautious stance regarding the university.
Will the decline of the university pave the way for private universities? Various private universities are eager to set up their campuses in Goa, this is no secret.
Although Goa University is the preferred destination for foreign students in India, the lower NAAC accreditation has led to foreign students turning their backs on the university.
Last year, the Maharashtra Institute of Technology organised the Youth Parliament programme in association with the government. It was given strong financial support.
Many private organisations have their eyes on Goa. The idea that this is a conspiracy to set up a private alternative to Goa University could very well be true.
Private institutions like BITS Pilani conduct detailed studies and research. The Government of Goa employs the aid of these institutions, but Goa University does not seem to contribute in any way to public policy planning.
The Directorate of Higher Education set up the Goa Research Council, and the university has not been able to plan a single project.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Directorate of Higher Education implemented the Dishyavo digital curriculum. It was, significantly, created scientifically, using the campus of the university itself as well as other resources.
Unfortunately, the university has not yet been able to implement the digital courses at the postgraduate level. The main reason for this is that the implementation of the New Education Policy has increased the hours of teachers.
Recording digital courses is a full-time job. Also, the minimum leave of senior teachers is approved immediately, but the study leave applications of junior professors to complete their PhD are suppressed.
To implement the New Educational Policy at the postgraduate level, the university announced a joint graduate-postgraduate course. The university does not yet have the resources required for this course.
The people of Goa have a special respect and gratitude towards the teachers who came to Goa from Kerala, Karnataka and Maharashtra. After liberation, Goa entered into an agreement with these states at the government level for the appointment of teachers. However, Professor Menon is an exception in this respect.
Professor Menon may be a giant in his field, but he has no experience in running an organisation.
For example, the former vice-chancellor of the university Dr Satish Shetye was the director of the National Institute of Oceanography, while Professor Varun Sahni had extensive experience as the vice-chancellor of the University of Jammu.
Professor Menon's resume is devoid of such extensive experience. Also, the vice-chancellor has to have an understanding of various branches of knowledge apart from his subjects. Society expects them to be public thinkers. At least they are expected to be sensitive in these matters.
This chaos and disorganisation has brought Goa University to the verge of losing its autonomy. It may still not be too late. Positive intervention on the part of the government and support from college principals, thinkers and educationalists may be the university’s last hope.
(Raju Nayak is the Editor - Director of Gomantak Media)