This will reaffirm our commitment to academic autonomy and freedom which have always been at the core of Ashoka University ideals, said a statement issued jointly by Chancellor Rudrangshu Mukherjee, Vice Chancellor Malabika Sarkar, Chairman of the Board of Trustees Ashish Dhawan and, interesting, Mehta and Subramanian.
The final line in the statement that Mehta and Subramanian will remain available for counseling and consultation with the university in the future was a signal that neither Mehta nor Subramanian will return to the faculty positions they have left.
The past week has been turbulent for Ashoka, which opened its doors in 2014 as the first privately owned liberal arts university in India. First Mehta resigned and in a letter to the vice chancellor, said: After a meeting with the founders, it has become very clear to me that my association with the university can be considered a political responsibility. My public writing in support of a policy that strives to respect the constitutional values of freedom and equal respect for all citizens is perceived to bring risks to the university. It is clear that it is time for me to leave Ashoka.
Days later, Arvind Subramanian, who was the chief economic adviser in the first Modi government, followed suit, saying that even Ashoka with her private status and backed by private capital could no longer provide a space for academic expression and freedom is ominously disturbing. Above all, the commitment of universities to fight and support the Ashoka vision is now open to question makes it difficult for me to continue to be part of Ashoka.
Ashoka’s statement said Mehta and Subramanian continue to strongly believe that Ashoka University should embody a liberal vision and commitment to academic freedom and autonomy. And they remain lifelong and benevolent friends of the institution and are committed to its success wherever they are.
In a separate letter to students, faculty, graduates, parents and founders, Mukherjee said, Ashoka Universities’s commitment to core values and the role of our founders and administrators is being called into question. I want to respond to this. Today when the founders are being attacked for trying to compromise and restrict academic autonomy and freedom of expression, I find it necessary to state without a doubt that the founders have never interfered with academic freedom: faculty members are left free to build their own courses and follow their teaching methods and their assessment methods. They have also been left free to conduct their own research and publications, Mukherjee said.
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