Calicut University’s circular on academic chair events raises eyebrows

KOZHIKODE: Calicut University came up with a new circular stating that its academic chairs should ensure that the content of their programmes do not go against the policies of central and state governments. The circular raised eyebrows, with many saying that it amounted to imposing curbs on freedom of expression and more importantly against the spirit of open and free academic discussions and debate.
“Academic chairs are meant to function with a level of autonomy and if at all there are voices of criticism in seminars and discussions; they should be viewed as constructive criticism in the true essence of democracy. Academics and intellectuals also have a responsibility to point out lapses or shortcomings in government policy,” said the head of an academic chair. He said imposing CU’s diktat will make it difficult to invite speakers for various programmes organised by the chairs.
UDF-affiliated syndicate member Rasheed Ahmed P said the circular was yet another instance of CU putting curbs on dissent and voices of opposition.
“The circular amounts to violation of freedom of expression. How can an academic community be expected to blindly praise and support the policies of those in power. Earlier, CU came up with an order in June stating that the dissent notes, filed by syndicate members against a syndicate decision, has to be approved by the syndicate meeting if it is to be recorded in the official minutes which was totally undemocratic and violated the right to dissent,” he said.
One faculty member said that the circular, if implemented, will come in the way of organizing programmes and discussing key challenges faced by India. “Even policies of Kerala government and Centre diverge on many issues,” he said.
Another syndicate member said though there is a concern that CU’s academic chairs are increasingly being used as fronts by religious and political organizations to conduct functions under the official label of the varsity, it is improper to say that programmes organized by them should not be against the policies of central and state governments.
CU has around a dozen academic chairs include EMS Chair for Marxian Studies and Research, Chair for Gandhian Studies and Research, Chair for Christian Studies and Research, CH Mohammed Koya Chair for Developing Societies, Chair for Maritime History of South India, Chair for Sanathana Dharma Studies and Research, Chair for Islamic Studies and Research, Vaikom Muhammed Basheer Chair etc.

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