Ashoka University, in Sonepat, has admitted that there have been “system failures” surrounding the exit areas, last week, of two top academics quoting the limits of free speech. The private arts institute said it would “work to fix” these certificates “in consultation with all stakeholders”. Acknowledging their rise, a joint statement from senior university executives and two emerging academic members, Pratap Bhanu Mehta and Arvind Subramanian, sought to emphasize that they both continue to believe that the Ashoka University is also one of the most important projects in Indian higher education.
The statement said that they acknowledge the failure of the institutional arrangements that we will work to address in consultation with all stakeholders. It also said that this will reaffirm their commitment to academic independence and freedom which has always been at the heart of Ashoka University’s policies.
It also said that they continue to strongly believe that Ashoka University must be open-minded and committed to academic freedom and independence.
The joint statement was signed by Chancellor Rudrangshu Mukherjee, Vice-Chancellor Malabika Sarkar, Mr Mehta, Mr Subramanian, and Ashish Dhawan, Chairperson of the University Board of Trustees.
A government critic of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA), Mr Mehta resigned as Ashoka University Vice-Chancellor in July 2019 but went on to become a professor. On Tuesday, however, he abruptly resigned from the post, again, saying that “his association with the University could be considered a political debt”. Two days later, Mr Subramanian, former Chief Economic Adviser to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, resigned as councilor expressing regret over Mr Mehta’s departure.
Their departure from what is being called India’s first privately-funded higher education institution dedicated to free arts sparked protests from international experts. Those who have expressed solidarity with Mr Mehta and Mr Subramanian include former Reserve Bank of India CEO Raghuram Rajan and a list of scholars and academics from Harvard, Oxford, and Brown universities, as well as the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Here is the full text of the consolidated statement:
The Councilor, Vice-Chancellor and Chairman of the Board of Trustees of Ashoka University expressed deep regret over the recent resignation of Professor Pratap Bhanu Mehta and Prof. Arvind Subramanian were rare partners and intellectual members of Ashoka University.
The University has been entitled to the leadership, guidance and mentorship of Pratap first as Vice Chancellor and then senior position. He has worked hard and skill with the founders over the years to take the University into a position of recognition as a good institution of education, teaching and research.
Arvind has brought prominence, title, new ideas and power to the University. He is one of the Prime Minister’s thinkers for the Indian economy and the global economy. He leaves a space that will be difficult to close.
We acknowledge that there have been some shortcomings in the institutional processes that we will work to address in consultation with all stakeholders. This will also reaffirm their commitment to academic independence and freedom that has always been at the core of Ashoka University’s goals.
Pratap and Arvind would also like to emphasize that Ashoka University is one of the most important projects that has happened in the Indian higher education. It is sad that they left Ashoka, especially its students and professionals. They continue to strongly believe that Ashoka University should embrace an open mind and commitment to academic freedom and independence. And they remain lifelong friends who wish the best for the institution and are committed
They are always available for advice and consultation with the University in the future.