Officials said Deshmukh’s decision to implement the online assessment of answer sheets became his undoing
Two years after he was appointed to head the University of Mumbai, Sanjay Deshmukh became the first vice-chancellor (V-C) to be sacked in the history of the 164-year-old varsity. Senior university officials told HT this will be the shortest tenure for a V-C. Officials said Deshmukh’s decision to implement the online assessment of answer sheets became his undoing.
“While On-Screen Marking (OSM) system was a good move, its implementation, despite opposition from various stakeholders, was a mistake. The outcome of this mistake was huge, so he had to take the responsibility,” said Neeraj Hatekar, head of department, Mumbai School of Economics and Public Policy, MU. Hatekar was recently in the news for opting to take voluntary retirement by calling a “fight within a hopeless system of no use”.
The OSM system was introduced in May after a three-month struggle to find an online agency to carry out the assessment. Senior university officials said they had suggested that OSM be implemented in a phased manner but Deshmukh insisted on conducting all assessment work online.
Former V-C Bhalchandra Mungekar had demanded Deshmukh’s resignation over the results’ chaos this year.
“His continuation as V-C was harmful to the university and the decision by the chancellor has come too late in the day,” said Mungekar. “The governor also needs to push for a judicial inquiry into this mess that has affected lives and future of lakhs of students.”
In addition, most of Deshmukh’s pet projects, including setting up university campuses in the US and Dubai also courted controversy and failed to see light of the day. His decisions, such as purchasing an aircraft to offer hands-on training to students pursuing BSc Aviation and a revaluation facility for internal examinations of colleges were rolled back. Plans to raise Rs1,000 crore as an endowment fund for the academic and infrastructure development of the university too remained on paper.
AD Sawant, former pro V-C, who fought a long-drawn legal battle against Deshmukh’s predecessor Rajan Welukar, said, “In Maharashtra, vice-chancellors are being appointed based on their political affiliations, instead of their calibre.” The search committee appointed by the government consists of a bureaucrat and a judge, as opposed to academicians as prescribed by University Grants Commission (UGC).
In July this year, HT had highlighted how after two months of online assessment more than 80% answer booklets were pending assessment. What’s worse is that almost four months into the process the university revealed they had lost thousands of answer booklets leading to a five-month delay in announcing results of exams conducted between March and May 2017. All results were finally announced last week.
He added, “The assessment crisis has proved that the search committee has failed to judge the qualifications of the vice-chancellor. Even if Deshmukh’s intention was right, he faltered in the path. He should have accepted his fault and resigned on his own. Instead, he blamed his employees and was desperate to get back to university.”