Sixteen senior professors in Odisha, shortlisted for the posts of vice-chancellor in six state universities, were reportedly made to take a written at the Raj Bhavan, after being invited for an interaction with the Governor on Monday, November 23.
Governor Ganeshi Lal—the ex officio chancellor—was mourning his wife who had passed away the night before and did not meet the professors. Instead his secretary handed over the questions for the written test to the academics, The Telegraph reported.
The move to test the candidates in such a way has been described as humiliating and condemned by several of the candidates as well as academics in the state. A report quoted one of the candidates, who wanted to remain as saying, “His (the governor’s) secretary came and gave us a piece of paper each with four questions. They asked us to write the answers in 45 minutes. Three officials were in the room while we wrote the answers. Then they asked us to go.”
The four questions asked were:
The universe is built on….
The role of the university to build the universe?
You have work experience. The style of working? The spirit of working?
If God appears before you and asks for a boon, what will you like to ask for?
Questioning the futility of such a test, another candidate referred to the test as a “joke”. Not only that, the candidate added that the officials were keeping an eye on them to keep them from talking. He said, “If the chancellor was occupied elsewhere, the interaction could have happened another day.”
Several academics have criticised the move saying that there is a need to respect academics. Former director of NIT Rourkela Sunil Sarangi commented on the issue that only if the VC is respected by the chancellor, he would treat his colleagues in the university with respect and the teachers would behave well with the students and vice versa. This helps healthy functioning of the institutions.
He further added that even though the decision for a final written test was taken, the governor should have briefed the candidates instead of handing the questions through his secretary. The shortlisted candidates have all proven their academic credentials and therefore, the chancellor should treat them as colleagues rather than humiliating them.
A retired professor from Odisha University referred to the questions as irrelevant and said that question on a boon from God ran counter to scientific temper.
According to The Telegraph report, there has only been one such instance previously where written test was conducted for would-be VCs. “Two years ago, one such test was held to select a VC for Berhampur University, but the chancellor had interacted with the candidates,” the report said.
Earlier in September, the process of appointing state university vice-chancellors had been involved in another controversy after the state government had amended the Odisha Universities Act through an ordinance. The ordinance had changed the composition of the search panels, which were earlier made up of nominees of the chancellor, the University Grants Commission and the syndicate of the university concerned. However, the ordinance replaced the syndicate representative with an Odisha government representative.
The shortlisted candidates had been chosen by six search panels for the following universities:Utkal University, North Odisha University, Fakir Mohan University, Rama Devi Women’s University, Khalikot University and Gangadhar Meher University. The results of the written test were declared in the evening on the same day.