Madurai Kamaraj University has become the centre for protests, agitations and boycott of classes by students

Madurai Kamaraj University (MKU) has been in news for wrong reasons.

There is an overwhelming view that ‘trust factor’ is grossly missing among the vital stakeholders – administration, faculty and students – in this university which is among the nine institutions in the country to have been conferred the prestigious recognition of University with Potential for Excellence by the University Grants Commission.

The campus which has produced Vice-Chancellors for various universities in the State is facing unrest, especially since last December on a host of issues, and the MKU became the centre for protests, agitations and boycott of classes by students. Amidst claims and counterclaims by varsity authorities and protesting students, the university is now longing for academic ambience instead of police making rounds to maintain calm.

Senior academicians and faculty associations have expressed their suggestions to restore peace, harmony and mutual trust in the university.

A senior administrator in higher education G. Thiruvasagam, who served as Vice-Chancellor of Bharathiar University and the University of Madras, says the first important step was to break the communication barriers between the students and the Vice-Chancellor.

“You may be a genius but if you have ego and can’t communicate freely with your faculty or students, then a VC is in trouble. My advice is that a Vice-Chancellor of any university should go beyond the syndicate, senate and academic council. They should not look at students as enemies. At the same time, teaching staff or students too should not fall prey to the hidden agenda of associations,” Dr.Thiruvasagam says.

Renowned academician and former Vice-Chancellor of Anna University M. Anandakrishnan says he feels saddened over the falling standards in the appointment of Vice-Chancellors.

“My solution for peace and progress of any university is simple. Appointment of the Vice-Chancellor should be as per UGC norms. Money should not play a role and when people with stature become VCs, then automatically they will command respect,” he observed.

While Dr.Anandakrishnan objects to loading of university syndicate with government nominees as members, he also strongly believes that Vice-Chancellors these days are unable to command respect as teachers’ associations suspect something foul.

“Any university can be good only if its leader is apolitical. When there is a perception that a VC post is possible only if you have influence, then how can you expect respect from students and teachers,” he asks.

E. Balagurusamy, a former Vice-Chancellor and Tamil Nadu Planning Commission Member (Education), too is critical of the indifferent attitude of university authorities towards students and faculty everywhere.

“When I was the VC of Anna University, I used to go to the canteen, buy a token and take lunch along with the students. Leaders have to be informal and only then the students would think that you are for them whatever be the issue. The focus is missing these days. When we don’t care for them, then why will they care for us,” he asks.

Dr.Balagurusamy points out that issues are becoming complicated in institutions of higher education because students have lost interest in education since teachers have lost interest in students. “A Vice-Chancellor need not pamper students but at least try to help them. By doing that, any unrest in the institutions can be solved and no one will fight with you,” he adds.

Teachers associations are ready to bring in bonhomie on the MKU campus but they complain that varsity authorities are not willing to listen to the aggrieved students or research scholars.

S. Vivekanandan, vice-president of All India Federation of University and College Teachers Associations (AIFUCTO), says the university will be back on track only if liberal thinking happens.

“Our members feel that the problems are created and invited due to a rigid approach. We have to work for the welfare of hostel students, research scholars, teaching and non-teaching staff,” he says.

Mr.Vivekanandan, who is a senior member of teachers association MUTA, expresses concern that students who wanted to meet the UGC Vice-Chairman during his recent visit to Madurai to give a representation were not allowed to meet him. “I think the system has collapsed completely in the university. Our appeal to the university administration is to negotiate, talk and solve the issues quickly rather than resort to intimidation,” he observes.

Vice-Chancellor Kalyani Mathivanan, however, claims that “things are perfectly fine” and she has been working hard for the welfare of all sections.

“Barring a few stray groups, there is no problem in the MKU. I am not angry with anybody and my appeal to the students and the research scholars is to be positive. Our website has newsletters explaining the activities. Maybe, I have not done sufficient work to project things in the media,” Dr.Mathivanan adds.

Assuring that she will be accessible to all, the Vice-Chancellor says all the accusations against her are false. “I am not sitting in an ivory tower and my firm conviction is that these students are the future of India,” she says. Staff and students are now hoping that the broken pieces will be joined together and peace will come back in the days to come.