Trying to reverse years of decline, says NLSIU VC

The new vice-chancellor of the National Law School of India (NLSIU), Sudhir Krishnaswamy, poses in his office in Bengaluru on Tuesday.

The new vice-chancellor of National Law School of India University (NLSIU), Sudhir Krishnaswamy, explained that he was trying to address a serious morale problem on campus, which he believes could help reverse the decline of the country's premier law school.

During an interview with DH on Tuesday, Professor Krishnaswamy, who took over as VC after weeks of delays, explained that his priority was to address the climate of distrust on the campus, which has seen academic standards drop even as student and faculty discontent has risen.

An audit by his staff last week discovered massive problems at the 31-year-old university, not least of all is the deficit of Rs 4.89 crore. Then, there is the matter of resistance to Krishnaswamy's appointment by sections of the governing council, the Executive Council (EC) and the Bar Council of India (BCI).

However, armed with the support of a new registrar, Dr Sarasu Esther Thomas, who he praised as honest and upright, the new VC said he hopes that things would turn around within a year.

Q. Now that you are in charge, what is your vision for the university?

I think the first steps need to be small. Our absolute priority is to rebuild unity on the campus. The past six months have been a torrid time. NLSIU must contribute to reform systems and social change. We must engage in research to produce knowledge. But none of these is possible if we don’t address the problem of morale or the lack of transparency.

Q. What are some of the other problems you have found?

I found out that scholarship was not being given out. In fact, nobody has got scholarships. We are addressing this now.

Q. What is your take on the students' strike, which paralysed the campus in September?

People think that the strike was just about the delay in the appointment of the vice-chancellor. But it was about larger things, including a fee hike, which is deeply unpopular with students.

Q. What is your take on the allegations of irregularities and financial embezzlement in the varsity?

The fact is that we have a deficit of Rs 4.89 crore. We have annual revenue of Rs 25 crore and the deficit constitutes nearly 25% of this revenue, which is not small. With the fee increase, revenue will go up to about Rs 27 crore. We are considering other financial models, including grants and CSR, to help with funding. The university's resources are limited.

Q. Are you saying that no illegalities have happened?

I don’t know. I am all of five days old in this post and my focus is on sharply looking ahead. I am not trying to be ignorant about the past, but my motivation is hardly to poke behind every bush. Even if there was money spent that we shouldn’t have spent, it’s okay. We can be confident enough to look ahead and build something and be constructive.

Q. There was a lot of bad blood around the matter of your appointment. Has that changed? Will it impede your ability to do the job?

I recently had an opportunity to meet all members of the governing bodies, including the BCI. None of them knew me personally. They were responding to me by what they heard from people, there was a lot of loose talks. Now, they see me and in the months to come, they will see what we do here. That perception will change.

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