The recent appointment of the Vice-Chancellor of the renowned Visvesvara Technological University (VTU) has sparked a debate in Karnataka about the process of appointing VCs by the state government.

The BJP government had to face flak from academicians who alleged that all three candidates shortlisted by the committee faced various allegations and demanded withdrawal of all three names.

However, despite opposition, the commission forwarded three names — Anand Deshapande, registrar of VTU, MN Vidyashankar, vice-chancellor of Karnataka State Open University (KSOU), and Gopal Mugheraya, director of National Institute of Technology, Goa — to the Governor.

Activists alleged that one candidate faced a police investigation, another was rejected by the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) and a third was accused of illegality.

They said that the governor should get the details of the finalized candidates as their appointment would lead to a big controversy. However, MN Vidyashankar was appointed vice-chancellor of VTU.

Speaking on the controversy, retired professor Dr BP Maheshchandra Guru told IANS that now the cushion lobby is ready to sponsor likely candidates for the vice-chancellorship.

He said that merit, ethics and UGC norms are not considered. If the appointments are made as per UGC norms and guidelines, there will be no problem.

Attempts are being made to appoint their own candidates from the side of self-interest. Such cases ended up in courts. Once the courts give the directions, the governors will have to lift them. This is what happened in Kerala. “We must congratulate the Kerala Governor for taking a bold step,” he said.

The Guru added that those candidates who became VCs by violating the instructions should be exposed and thrown out. PILs have to be filed in the High Courts and the Supreme Court seeking to set aside their appointments.

When the late Hansraj Bharadwaj was the Governor of Karnataka, the allocation of VCs was done according to whims and fancies. No one knocked on the door of the Supreme Court and the EC had completed its mandate, he argued.

Now the appointment of the VC at VTU has turned into a controversy. “Currently, there are vice-chancellors who have been suspended many times and appointed before being released by the government. They head prestigious institutions and if they are questioned in court, their appointment will also be revoked,” he said.

There are also allegations of money changing hands in recent VC appointments in Karnataka. A new trend is that there are sponsors for candidates in the VC. Religious organizations in the state, which run educational institutions, sponsor them to do their work, the Guru said.

Similarly, a candidate who did not even have a master’s degree in Sanskrit became the vice-chancellor of a Sanskrit university in the state. He alleged that in some universities where the VC does not have the required specialty, highly undesirable appointments are being made.

Senior academician VP Niranjan Aradhya told IANS that “we are seeing politicization of all sections in this phase. Party loyalists become vice-chancellors.”

Currently, a search committee is being formed, which will propose three candidates, and the governor will select one of them for the post of VC. People say a lot of money is exchanged for membership in syndicates and senates, he said.

“Based on my more than four decades of experience in academics, I believe that the error occurs in the process of submitting applications for the position of vice-chancellors. The policy starts from the moment the application is submitted,” he said.

“Instead of an application process, the search committee should have complete freedom to search without applying for the best of the best.

“I proposed it for the best teacher award as well. Because when submitting an application, the candidate begins to document for 10 years. We don’t want “VC papers”. Excellent work on the ground should be the real criteria,” stated Aradhya.

There is an opportunity for the dean to demonstrate his abilities in teaching, administration and innovation. As an administrator, he must ensure democracy and decentralization, his experience in his subject and whether he was able to bring some innovations, these factors must be taken into account when appointing candidates for the position of vice-chancellors, he said.

Members of the search committee must be independent and honest, not subject to influence, pressure and pressure. The commission formed to select the EC should be like a panel in the Supreme Court and Supreme Court, he suggested.

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