A University stands for humanism. For tolerance, for reason, for the adventure of ideas and for the search of truth. It stands for the onward march of the human race towards ever higher objectives. If the Universities discharge their duties adequately, then it is well with the Nation and the People.
The symbol is a graphic statement which stands for international academic exchange and onwards search of knowledge for the betterment of human being.
The overlapping circular segments of the design denote global interaction, creating a flame emitting enlightenment, this flame emerges out of the traditional Indian 'diya' (lamp)-a source of Light, Understanding and Brotherhood.
The design is also representative of the rose-bud closely associated with the name of Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru.
JNU News is a bimonthly journal of Jawaharlal Nehru University. It serves to bridge the information gap and tries to initiate constant dialogue between various consitituents of the University community as well as with the rest of the academic world. Views expressed are those of the contributors and not necessarily of JNU News. All articles and reports published in it may be freely reproduced with acknowledgment.
In conversation with….. JNU News interviewed New Vice-Chancellor Prof. Sudhir Kumar Sopory
JNU NEWS: Welcome back to JNU, this time as Vice Chancellor. The first question I would like to ask is how you feel about this transition from being a scientist in a laboratory to being the Vice Chancellor of this University, which is a purely administrative job?
VC: This transition was never planned. I was taken by surprise by this offer. In science you keep planning to see how an experiment will succeed. To me administration is like an experiment. In scientific experimentation you may fail and re-plan. In an administrative setup there is no choice but to succeed. So you have to plan in such a way that whatever one has thought of in terms of getting results, one has to achieve that. I have already set some targets and I have to work to successfully achieve those. It is going to be a challenge of a different kind altogether. Of course I am going to continue with my academic activities side by side. I have taken up this challenge to achieve desired results which hopefully will benefit a larger academic community.
JNU NEWS: Are you planning to take an academic role in the University as well?
VC: As of now I don't have any academic position here but this is something I would like to do. I may take some classes in the School for Life Sciences if permitted. It would be nice if I could do that but not at the cost of my administrative duties. Research wise I would love to collaborate with faculty here as well as institutions outside. In fact, I try to find some time in the early morning to keep myself updated with publications in my research area. I think this would continue for sure, aside from all the other work I have to do as the Vice Chancellor.
JNU NEWS: You had mentioned earlier that you have a very clear cut idea of what you want to achieve. So what are these targets you have in mind?
VC: I think we want an extremely efficient administrative setup here. That is something that others in the university depend on and unless we are able to resolve issues and respond to the demands of the faculty, staff, colleagues and students of the university, we cannot function smoothly. Administrative improvement is one of the basic aims. I wish to have an Administrative Reforms Committee to see how we can utilize the available manpower in the best possible way. Utilization of manpower to deliver the results is a major priority. The other priority is academic improvement. We want all the schools and centres to raise their bar in terms of productivity, publication quality etc. I want them to match the best in their field. I would also focus on setting up of more interdisciplinary research & courses and I have been talking to faculty regarding this. I have even given a challenge to students and research scholars to develop courses which can be offered as audit courses. We can develop our resources through student participation and this is something I think we can achieve. Another point is to highlight the research work of the JNU faculty, the books and articles they publish the research they have done, to the outside world. The best part of JNU is still not known to the public at large.
JNU NEWS: JNU has been in the papers recently for a lot of reasons and mostly for the wrong ones. What do you think can be done in the short and long term to preserve the tradition of JNU while countering such tendencies that have given rise to these problems and debates?
VC: I think we have to continue to have a dialogue with the students. Recently, when some controversies and issues came up, not only the wardens and faculty but a lot of students themselves said that this is something that has gone wrong. I think the majority of students are very responsible and they do understand the value of freedom. Of course there are a few who tend to misuse this freedom. This happens everywhere and JNU being a part of the society, that is reflected here also. Even if you go out on the road there are laws governing our conduct but some people tend to break and disregard them and that creates chaos. There is freedom in JNU but within this freedom every society has to accept certain norms which must be followed in order to maintain a congenial atmosphere on campus. We will keep dialogue open with students. As far as the other things in JNU like the open lectures, meetings and discussions are concerned, they can continue. So long as meeting are peaceful and in the right spirit. What we need to do is to draw a line beyond which this freedom cannot be misused. We are a democratic nation but we have to keep in mind that even in a democracy one has to follow some rules and regulations, otherwise the society will collapse.
JNU NEWS: There is this continuous debate going on about the JNUSU. You just said that a dialogue should be there between students and the administration but who is to represent the students? Do you think you can do anything about the students' union elections?
VC: I want JNUSU elections for many reasons. One of the reasons is that then I have the representative of students to talk to. I have many things in mind about ways in which I would like to help the students but currently I don't have a direct means to reach them. As a Vice Chancellor I cannot directly interfere with the process. All I can do is support and guide them I hope this issue can be resolved and elections can be held soon.
JNU NEWS: One of the problems that the students have is the condition of hostels. Many of the hostels are not maintained well and are falling apart. The facilities aren't good at all. They have problems from no hot water to no water at all. Have you looked into these issues so far?
VC: I had discussions with officers who are directly involved with this like the Dean's office, the Engineering department etc. Currently my focus is to get the Koyna II hostel ready by July 2011. Although because of the time lapse the cost and other expenditures have gone up yet we are trying to get funding so that we can finish the building work as soon as we can. However, the problem is that the old hostels and houses are also not in a good condition. That is where we need to get more money. I visited some hostels and I know that things are not how they should be. We need to provide them with better facilities.
JNU NEWS: What do you think about the fact that our campus is still not a wireless campus yet?
VC: I did talk to the concerned committee about this and asked them to make a presentation. They have informed me that the optical fibre lines have already been laid and the Wi-Fi system will get going shortly, hopefully. I want to get this facility working within 3-4 months. Infrastructure is a major priority and we are trying to find all the ways and means to get more funding from the UGC to start working on the hostels, computer centers, staff quarters and public facilities as well. A lot of committee rooms, classrooms and offices are in bad shape and we need to provide excellent academic facilities to the students. Instead of somebody complaining, Administration will have to be proactive to identify the problems and get working on them beforehand.
JNU NEWS: A lot of staff have retired or are retiring soon and we don't see any replacement for them. Are you thinking about training, promotions etc.?
VC: That is a major issue because most of the people in such posts and areas are specialised and cannot be switched from one place to another. I am trying to make a list of the people who are going to retire in the next six months or so and possibly try to have recruitments done on time. These selections are going to be done soon so that this problem of manpower deficit is sorted out.
JNU NEWS: When we are talking about recruitment, one of our greatest problems is that we are short of teachers. Many departments and centres are running at half strength. There is a lot of research going on but very limited number of people to guide and supervise the students. Again, have you thought about how to set this situation right?
VC: This is a very serious problem. As we are a research oriented university the need for more teachers to guide the students and give them individual attention is even more important. I know that at this moment there are a lot of centres where one member of the faculty is supervising as many as 10 to 12 students or even more. This is very disappointing and needs to be resolved. There are complexities relating to issues on reservation for teaching posts but I am hopeful that these can be resolved by the Academic Council and Executive Council keeping in mind the UGC regulations and also preserving the academic excellence of JNU.
JNU NEWS: Also, the classrooms in many schools are not of adequate size. They are not big enough to accommodate all the students. Have you looked into this as well?
VC: I agree with what you have said and there is a need to resolve these issues as soon as possible. We cannot do well without a good infrastructure as I said earlier. There are however, new buildings coming up where I think the classrooms have been planned keeping in mind the number of students.
JNU NEWS: You said a lot of things about academics, so what is your academic vision for JNU, what would you like to see by the time you leave as a Vice Chancellor of JNU in five years time?
VC: I want the faculty as well as students to be at par with the best and for that I want them to increase the quality of their publications and research. I would also like to see more professors with a stature like they had when JNU had just started and see people of that repute in the university. Also, I would like to keep JNU number one in terms of academics. We must also need to plan for the future. How much do we need to and want to expand? In what areas do we need to expand? There will be pressures at different times but we need to decide what to focus on. This happens to all the universities, the more you expand the courses and programmes the more you need the infrastructure to keep pace with that expansion. What we need is a focused expansion otherwise we will keep living with complaints. Only creating new centres is not going to help as long as we don't have the infrastructure to support these centres. I would like to see a more planned development for academic excellence. I want to see JNU amongst top 100, atleast in some areas.
JNU NEWS: You have lived on the campus before. What changes do you see on the campus?
VC: More buildings, more trees and more students. When we were here earlier, although it was growing then as well, we could manage to have more interaction amongst faculty and students which perhaps is missing now. I find the happiness index is low. May be we can have more joint programmes for teachers as well as students so that we have more cultural and academic interaction between them. I want to see JNU a more culturally and academically a vibrant campus.
JNU NEWS: Thank you Vice Chancellor for sparing the time for JNU News. We wish you the best and hope you can achieve your aims here.
It is to inform that the entry made under "Retirements/Resignations" in the MOVEMENT Column of JNU News 2010 (6) issue in respect of Prof. Shashiprabha Kumar, Special Centre for Sanskrit Studies may be treated as cancelled.
Prof. C.S. Raj as Dean, School of International Studies
Prof. V.V. Krishna as Chairperson, Centre for Studies in Science Policy, School of Social Sciences
Prof. Sudhir Kumar Sopory has joined as eleventh Vice-Chancellor of Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, taking charge on 28 January 2011. Prof. Sopory is a distinguished scientist of the country. He had his education first in J&K University for his B.Sc. and M.Sc and then did his Doctorate at the University of Delhi in the field of Plant Molecular Biology.
An eminent Plant Molecular Biologist of international repute, Prof. Sopory began his academic career in the year 1973 as a faculty at the School of Life Sciences, Jawaharlal Nehru University. His teaching and research career spans over 37 years - as Visiting Scientist at Max-Planck-Institute, Koeln, Germany, University of Austin, USA, Plant Molecular Biology Lab, U.S. Department of Agriculture, USA, and University of Munich, Germany. Before assuming charge as Vice-Chancellor of JNU, he was the Group Leader at the International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology from 1997 to 2010.
Prof. Sopory has been awarded various National and International Awards for his pioneering contributions to Scientific Research and Teaching. Notable among them are: prestigious Bhatnagar Award of CSIR; Chakravorty Award; Birbal Sahni Medal of the Botanical Society; Birbal Sahni Birth Centenary Award of Indian Science Congress; Godnev Award Lecture of Belarus Academy of Sciences and Padma Shri, Government of India.
He is an elected Fellow of the Indian National Science Academy (New Delhi); Indian Academy of Sciences (Bangalore); National Academy of Sciences (Allahabad); National Academy of Agricultural Sciences(New Delhi) and The World Academy of Sciences (Trieste, Italy). Recently he has also been awarded Corresponding Membership Award of American Society for Plant Biology, 2010, the first time to an Indian.
He has to his credit 200 Research publications in refereed and Impact factor Journals; 13 edited books and 50 chapters in books.
He has travelled widely participating in various National and International Seminars, Conferences and Workshops.
Prof. Anvita Abbi, Centre for Linguistics, School of Language, Literature and Culture Studies has been awarded prestigious Leverhulme Visiting Professorship 2011. She will be associated with the Department of Linguistics, SOAS, University of London. As a Leverhulme Professor she will be giving public talks at Oxford, Cambridge, Edinburgh, Manchester, Essex, and Newcastle about the latest developments in research on the languages of the Andaman Islands, historical linguistics, population genetics, early Asian migrations and description and evolution of human language.
Prof. Anvita Abbi is honorary member of the Linguistic Society of America (a rare honour only bestowed on leading scholars limited to a select few), and has been invited researcher at institutes in Europe including the Max Planck Institute, Germany, and The Cairns Institute, Australia. She has immense experience in South Asian language typology, field linguistics, language documentation, and analysis of ethno-linguistic aspects of language use.
Prof. R. Madhubala, Dean, School of Life Sciences has been awarded the J.C. Bose Fellowship by the Department of Science and Technology, Ministry of Science and Technology.
Prof. Jayati Ghosh, Centre for Economic Studies and Planning, School of Social Sciences has been awarded the Decent Work Research Prize 2010 as co-recipient. The Prize awarded to her is in recognition of her major scholarly contributions to the analysis of socio-economic relationships and policy instruments for the advancement of decent work.
Dr. Arun Mohanty, Centre for Russian, Central Asian Studies, School of International Studies has been conferred upon with the “Pushkin Gold Medal” by the President of Russian Federation for his excellent contribution to the Russian Studies.
Dr. Rajiv Saxena, Assistant Professor, Centre of Spanish, Portuguese, Italian and Latin American Studies, School of Language, Literature and Culture Studies has been awarded the prestigious “Fulbright” (2010-11) to pursue his research as a “Senior Scholar” on CALL (Computer Assisted Language Learning) & TELL (Technology Enabled Language Learning) at the University of California (UCD) and Harvard University, USA. He is the sole recipient of “Fulbright” in this discipline in India. Dr. Rajiv Saxena has also been honoured as “Honorary Citizen of City of Davis” by the Mayor of the City of Davis, California State, USA.
Sh. Shakti Prasad Srichandan, Research Scholar, Centre for European Studies, School of Internatioanl Studies was selected from SAARC countries and received DAAD scholarship to participate in the International Academy on Comparative Regional Integration, 11-28 January 2011, organized by ZEI, University of Bonn and German Federal Foreign Office.
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Cosmic Ray Detector Facility in JNU
Jawaharlal University Campus in the Capital has been chosen by National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) as the site for installation of a 'Cosmic Ray Detector Device' (CRDD). The prestigious project is part of NASA's plans for monitoring the weather patterns of the space and movements of earth's crust, following predictions made by ancient Mayans of Latin America that earth would face great calamities by 2012. Fourteen data collection instruments are to be placed in 14 different countries to lead real time measurements of the Sun's activities and also tectonic movements deep below the earth's crust by the year 2012, but so far these devices have been set up in only three countries which include Croatia, Bulgaria and the JNU in India.
CRDD has been installed in the remote sensing applications laboratory of the School of Environmental Sciences. This is a part of space of environment viewing and analysis network developed by a consortium of scientists across the world in collaboration with NASA. Cosmic ray division Armenia has developed the CRDD for India.
Saumitra Mukherjee, Professor,
School of Environmental Sciences
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