The Ashoka University administration, including the chairman of its board of trustees, the chancellor and vice-chancellor, has acknowledged “lapses in institutional processes” with regard to the controversial resignations of its two faculty members, Pratap Bhanu Mehta and Arvind Subramanian.
Expressing “deep regret”, they issued a joint statement on Sunday morning saying that they acknowledge there have been some lapses in institutional processes which they’ll “work to rectify” in consultation with all stakeholders.
“This will reaffirm our commitment to academic autonomy and freedom which have always been at the core of the Ashoka University ideals,” said the statement.
They said the University has been privileged to have been led, guided and counselled by Pratap first as Vice Chancellor and then as senior faculty”. Subramanian “brought eminence, stature, fresh ideas and energy to the University,” it said, adding that his exit “leaves a void that will be hard to fill.”
The statement, which has been jointly issued by Chancellor Rudrangshu Mukherjee, V-C Malabika Sarkar, chairman of board of trustees Ashish Dhawan, Mehta and Subramanian, also said the two former professors will remain “available for advice and consultation to the University in the future.”
“Pratap and Arvind would like to emphasize that Ashoka University is one of the most important projects in Indian higher education. They are sad to be leaving Ashoka, especially its outstanding students and faculty,” said the statement uploaded on the University’s website.
Mehta, scholar and commentator known for his writings critical of the central government, resigned last week stating his “association with the University may be considered a political liability” and his public writing “is perceived to carry risks for the University.”
Two days later, noted economist and former chief economic advisor to the central government, Arvind Subramanian too had resigned calling Mehta’s exit “ominously disturbing” for academic freedom. The two exits triggered protests on the campus with faculty and students seeking Mehta’s return.
The statement by the privately-funded liberal arts institution came only a few hours after Mehta urged the protesting students not to press for his return. In a letter to the students, he said, “You may lose a couple of Professors. But anyone looking at you will wonder in admiration… your outpouring is already a victory of sorts. You have taught us by example, what we were badly trying to teach you by lectures.”