Mumbai University suspends professor for speaking out

Hemali Chhapia,TNN | Jan 5, 2014,

MUMBAI: The University of Mumbai on Saturday suspended one of its senior teachers, a fellow of Cambridge University, on the grounds of violating the code of conduct and for moral turpitude. One of the reasons given for the suspension was “providing false information to media”.

Neeraj Hatekar, considered one of the finest professors of econometrics by students, was said to be on the hit list of university top brass ever since he raised his voice against academic degradation and poor governance at the 156-year-old institution.

Hatekar is the convenor of the Joint Action Committee for Improvement of Higher Education in Maharashtra, a body that has questioned the appointment of the vice-chancellor, who he and several others academicians claim has dubious academic and publication records.

The committee has also taken up several student-centric matters such as distance education students not getting good quality study material. It also alleged that the university started some special courses and ran them at a time when NAAC inspection was due and later folded them up. It was Hatekar’s RTI application that revealed that teachers in some of the most important subjects co-opted to the Board of Studies as postgraduate faculty did not hail from colleges that had PG teaching in that subject.

The suspension letter read: “The management council on December 20, 2013, has taken serious note about the misguidance to the newspapers and holding a press conference and providing false information to media.”

It added: “Also other instances of misbehaviour and misdeed not befitting of the status of a teacher have been brought to the notice of the vice-chancellor.”

Vice-chancellor Rajan Welukar said that under Section 14 (9) he had the power to suspend Hatekar and he ordered a departmental inquiry against him.

Hatekar told TOI: “I do not believe that I have violated any code of conduct. I have taken a certain position which I think is good for the university and I am willing to pay whatever price that I have to for my position.”

Many students said they would sit in protest if Hatekar was asked to leave. “He is one of the best teachers, honest to the core,” a student said.

Several deans also lamented Welukar’s decision.

“When the management council met, the VC put forth a proposal for his suspension by saying that Hatekar had disrepute the university,” a dean said. “Most people on the MC are the VC’s men.”

Another dean said Hatekar was among the finest academicians the university had but he was “paying the price of being brutally honest”.