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NLU Delhi students publish wishlist for new VC: Should tick usual boxes, ‘foster trust’ with student body

Who will succeed Prof Ranbir Singh? And will they be as successful?
Who will succeed Prof Ranbir Singh? And will they be as successful?

A group of NLU Delhi students has emulated NLSIU Bangalore’s in trying to have a say in the future of its institution, particularly in the process of appointing a successor to their hugely influential founding vice chancellor (VC) Prof Ranbir Singh.

A number of students collectively calling themselves “Students’ Body National Law University Delhi” sent an email to Singh, the VC and the convenor of the VC selection committee, with a three-page attachment outlining what they would like from a new VC.

The email, which was sent from a Gmail address, stated:

The process to appoint the next Vice-Chancellor of National Law University, Delhi has officially been initiated with the constitution of a three-member Selection Committee.

The Student Body of the University believes that it is their responsibility and their right as major stakeholders to be involved in the upcoming process to appoint the new Vice-Chancellor.

In furtherance of the same, the Student Body would like to make public their official Charter of Aspirations (attached to this email) hope that it will influence the selection process in a positive manner.

Regards NLU Delhi Student Body

We have reached out to the body via its email adddress but have not been able to confirm at this time whether the initiative is part of NLU Delhi’s official student council, for which elections were held on 10 October 2019 and which governs various verticals relevant to students such as library, mooting, welfare and academics (but which lacks, as far as we understand, umbrella student council positions such as president and vice president).

Our guess would be, not.

Aspirational aspirations

Nevertheless, in its “charter of aspirations”, the full PDF of which is attached below, the body expressed “its wholehearted indebtedness to him for his every single contribution in raising the University to its current stature”, but also added that it would like to “assert itself as an important stakeholder in the current search and selection processes that have been initiated to appoint a new Vice Chancellor to our University”.

Its preferences for a new VC include:

  • “fostering better environment for research” to “grow and not diminish” the relatively high existing research standards,
  • “improving quality of academics and initiating academic reforms”, by taking “steps to hire motivated faculty and foster an atmosphere of academic freedom, where modern and progressive methods of teaching are employed”.
  • “expanding infrastructure”, as certain needs still remained to be met, including making the campus more accessible,
  • “encouraging and facilitating sports facilities, cultural activities, and co-curricular activities”,
  • “creating a safe and inclusive space for all students, and special efforts for minority groups”, referring to an “increasing frequency of incidents of casteism, sexism, and homophobia in universities” (but not specifically NLU Delhi). They’d want a VC, they wrote, who would:

a. stand in support of women, bahujan & adivasi persons, the differently abled, persons belonging to religious and sexual minorities;

b. is open to concerns raised by persons of all identities and ensures that affirmative action is taken to empower those who are persecuted due to their identities/choices; and,

c. ensure by conduct, policies, and action, that sexism, homophobia, casteism, and other forms of discrimination are clearly discouraged

  • “ensuring proper management of funds and favourable administration of student affairs”, adding that “the Student Body has stood in solidarity with students of other universities in their protests against the injustices meted out to them by their college administrations”.

Along the vein of the last point, the note concludes that more than the above, they would request the selection committee to also bear in mind a few looser parameters and an eye on candidates’ track record:

Notwithstanding our faith in selection of the next Vice Chancellor, we hope that the Selection Committee will bear in mind the reputation of integrity and transparency which the University has come to exemplify.

Prior allegations of discriminatory actions against minorities, academic irregularity or mismanagement of funds on a candidate are strongly disapproved of by the Student Body. It should warrant further scrutiny to ensure that the appointment is in consonance with the dignity and esteem which the post demands. Further, it is paramount to consider the nature of the relationship that the candidate shared with the Student Body at their previous institution. Their ability to foster mutual trust and transparency is an uncompromising requirement for the Student Body.

Precedent

NLU Delhi students aren’t the first to try and take a more active role in the selection of a new VC.

NLS students had sent out a similar note in July ahead of their VC selections, which seems to have had some success in assisting (by most accounts) one of their preferred candidates, Prof Sudhir Krishnaswamy, eventually getting the gig.

That said, Delhi’s alumni base is much younger than NLS’, so the sway of students may be more limited.

Nevertheless, no reasonable argument can be made that expressing their preferences could be a negative.

Also on their side is the job description for the job, which we had first reported on in October;, as not explicitly requiring 10 years of professorship unlike most.

This could throw open the field to some unexpected candidates that could impress both selection committee and students.

NLU Delhi student charter of aspirations for new VC (PDF)

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