Over 500 academics urge SAARC foreign ministers to intervene, revoke ‘unfair' SAU suspensions

The four faculty members was suspended on June 16 for questioning the manner with which the SAU administration dealt with the protesting students.

South Asian University (SAU): Teachers seek intervention of SAARC minister to revoke suspension. (Image: Official website)South Asian University (SAU): Teachers seek intervention of SAARC minister to revoke suspension. (Image: Official website)

Anu Parthiban | July 8, 2023 | 06:07 PM IST

NEW DELHI: Condemning the suspension of four teachers at South Asian University (SAU) for questioning arbitrary punitive actions of the administration against students, more than 500 global academics have requested the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) foreign ministers to intervene.

Two days after the suspension, the All India Federation of University and College Teachers’ Organisations had written to the SAARC and India’s ministry of external affairs for “urgent intervention” and to reinstate the professors.

In the letter to the SAARC foreign minister, the academics urged the ministers “to intervene in this regard and call upon the SAU administration to immediately revoke the unfair and arbitrary suspension orders and establish congenial academic environment in the university”.

The four faculty members suspended on June 16 are - Snehashish Bhattacharya, faculty of economics; Srinivas Burra, faculty of legal studies; Irfanullah Farooqi, department of sociology, faculty of social science; and Ravi Kumar, department of sociology, faculty of social science.

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The professors questioned the manner with which the SAU administration dealt with the students protesting against the decrease in their monthly stipend last year and asking for fair representation in sexual harassment and gender sensitization committees.

The letter was signed by professors of Aligarh Muslim University (AMU), Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), Institute of Economic Growth, Delhi, Columbia University, Princeton University, University of Delhi, University of Colombo, University of Melbourne among other professors of foreign universities.

Letter to SAARC

“The censuring actions taken against the professors stand in conflict with the traditions of openness, dialogue and mutuality that are the hallmarks of the Indian education system. They also stand in conflict with a faculty's obligations to speak on students' behalf and ensure a safe and supportive learning environment that promotes the well-being and educational development of students,” the letter stated.

“Teaching, conducting research, and contributing to the academic community are all integral parts of a faculty member's professional responsibilities. Thus, the suspension order violates the basic rights of faculty members to exercise their professional skills and fulfill their obligations, while at the same time, denying the students of valuable instruction and mentorship,” it said.

“Recognizing and respecting the professional skills and contributions of faculty members is crucial for fostering a vibrant and productive academic community. Ultimately, the goal of any academic institution is to create an environment that protects the welfare of students while upholding the principles of justice, fairness, and respect for the rights of faculty members. The arbitrariness and callous disregard with which the administrators have taken actions against the professors violate the norms of accountability, transparency, integrity and sustainability of academic institutions. This will undermine a vibrant and productive academic community and can erode the trust and academic character of the university,” the letter read.

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