'JNU's academic value ignored over political activism'

'JNU's academic value ignored over political activism'

Jawaharlal Nehru University is often perceived as a theatre of political activism and its contribution in the academic sphere is ignored, says its outgoing vice chancellor S K Sopory.

Sopory, who demits office on January 27, says the outside world only looks at the political happenings on the campus but the fact that the varsity produces brightest of the minds gets ignored.

"People often talk about political activism on JNU campus but rarely anyone talks about the academic activism here. The varsity is never projected in that sense. We have roughly around 300 national and international seminars every year. Students here write and edit quality books, but the outside world only looks at the political things happening on the campus," he told PTI in an interview.

Sopory, who never came under attack from the students and teachers unions during his tenure, said critics have a right to criticise but trivial issues should not be magnified.
"People have a right to talk about JNU, critcise it, but I personally feel very trivial issues get magnified many times, which shouldn't happen," he said.

This is not the first time he has objected to the 'political activism' tag.
Last November, Sopory had lashed out at the comments made by a pro-RSS journal that JNU was home to "huge anti-national block", saying the varsity is home to "intellectuals" and not anti-nationals and has contributed considerably to nation building.

About the recent controversy over an invite extended to yoga exponent Ramdev for a conference, which was opposed by the students, the VC said, "There were different views about it, it's not that all the students did not want it, a few students did want it".

"That doesn't mean that the university has to withdraw the invite or it has to penalise those opposing it. There has to be a platform to raise your point but welcome others point of views too," he said.

Major achievements
According to Sopory, his two major achievements are the NAAC accreditation granted to the university and revamping of its sexual harassment policy.

The JNU, which had attracted criticism for maximum number of sexual harassment complaints by any educational institution in Delhi in the last two years, had last month notified a revamped sexual harassment policy which also included penalty provisions for false complaints.

"We have a Gender Sensitisation Committee Against Sexual Harassment (GSCASH), a central body which deals with complaints of this nature from across the university departments. It is one of the most stringent and active sexual harassment committees in any university," Sopory said.

"It should not be seen in a negative context that we received the maximum complaints. We got them because we have a platform to report such cases which in other universities might be going unreported due to lack of appropriate provisions or platform," he added.
Sopory took over as eleventh vice-chancellor of JNU in January 2011.

An eminent plant molecular biologist, Sopory began his academic career in 1973 as a faculty at the School of Life Sciences, Jawaharlal Nehru University.

His teaching and research career spans over 37 years. He has been a Visiting Scientist at Max-Planck-Institute, Koeln, Germany, University of Austin, USA, Plant Molecular Biology Lab, US Department of Agriculture, and University of Munich, Germany. Before assuming charge as vice-chancellor of JNU, he was the Group Leader at the International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology from 1997 to 2010.