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JNU admin slams teachers association for opposing compulsory attendance rule

The Jawaharlal Nehru University administration slammed the varsity's teachers association for seeking opinion of colleagues from foreign universities on compulsory attendance for faculty members "just to oppose the administration".

The JNU Teachers' Association (JNUTA) had recently shared findings of a survey conducted by them among universities across the world to obtain views on the marking of attendance for faculty, said JNUTA secretary Avinash Kumar.

"No university/institutes of higher learning in 75 premiere and highly ranked universities across 21 countries except one, has the practice of faculty signing daily attendance register or using biometrics," he said.

The report was met with criticism by the varsity administration.

To begin with, the JNU rules on attendance have been grossly misrepresented, said the varsity's registrar in a statement, adding these rules have been made by the statutory bodies of the university whereas the detractors are repeatedly questioning the procedure of adopting the attendance rule.

"The UGC Regulations 2018 categorically stipulate that the faculty members in the high education institutions should remain present in their respective offices for at least five hours each working day. JNU, like hundreds of other universities and thousands of colleges in the country, follows the UGC notifications and frames ordinances and rules; and does not go by the practices and opinions of foreign universities," he said.

The JNUTA report clearly reflects that it opposes the rules of its own university and seeks opinions of colleagues from foreign universities just to oppose the JNU administration.

"It needs underlining that except for a few politically opinionated JNUTA members, the rest of the faculty members have been diligently following the attendance rules," he added.

The JNUTA has been at loggerheads with the administration over the issue of compulsory attendance. The JNUTA has said that teachers, who are not complying with the compulsory attendance rule, have faced punitive actions from the administration.

The JNUTA surveyed 32 universities in Europe, 27 in USA and Canada and 16 in other parts of the world.

Some of the universities surveyed in Europe included University of Oxford, London School Of Economics, University of Cambridge, Kings College, London, Berlin School Of Economics and Law, which replied in the negative to JNUTA's queries, according to the report.

The report quoted Professor Barbara Harriss-White (formerly at Oxford University) as saying, "The academic has a professional vocation. My understanding of the definition of a profession is the self-governing practice of complex skills... to be under such surveillance is anathema to the academic profession."

JNUTA also received responses from 27 premiere public funded and private universities spread across the USA and Canada like Columbia University, Stanford University, Ohio State University, Indiana University, all of which said they do not practice the policy of marking attendance of the faculty using daily attendance register or biometrics.

The report said many respondents openly said the intention of any administration that tries to push these measures was not "simply accidental, but in fact consciously geared towards the destruction of research itself".

The JNUTA said they received responses from 16 premiere universities in Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Brazil, Mexico, Japan, Pakistan , Palestine, Sri Lanka and Malaysia, among whom only the University of Malaya, Kuala Lumpur, uses attendance register and biometrics for taking the attendance of teachers.

The report said professor Rajah Rasiah remarked in the case of University of Malaya that compulsory attendance was not suitable for academics who always have to work beyond office hours and the only use of the same might be for the "support staff who earn overtime pay when they work longer than office hours".

"Almost all colleagues (teachers fraternity) who responded to the JNUTA survey expressed shock and outrage at the new attendance policy instituted by the JNU administration and found the policy to be antithetical to the idea of a university and fostering good teaching and research," the secretary said.