Founders Have Never Interfered With Academic Freedom, Says Ashoka University Chancellor Amid Controversy

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Ashoka University’s Chancellor Rudrangshu Mukherjee issued a statement on Sunday saying that the founders of the university have never interfered with academic freedom.

This letter comes days after the resignation of Ashoka University professor Pratap Bhanu Mehta. Ashoka University was at the centre of a controversy this week after the resignation.

“Today, when the Founders are being attacked for trying to compromise and curtail academic autonomy and freedom of expression, I find it necessary as Chancellor and given my association with Ashoka from its inception, to state unambiguously that the Founders have never interfered with academic freedom: faculty members have been left free to construct their own courses, follow their own methods of teaching and their own methods of assessment,” Mukherjee wrote.

They, he said, have also been left free to carry out their own research and publications.

“There are only two points that the founders have insisted upon. One, that Ashoka should not compromise on intellectual standards; and two, that the Foundation Courses should be integral to Ashoka”s academic offering,” the letter reads.

“Ashoka University’s commitment to core values and our Founders and Trustees” role are being questioned in the wake of the recent resignation of Professor Pratap Bhanu Mehta,” Mukherjee said, addressing Mehta by the first name and calling him a “close personal friend” whom he had brought to the university and succeeded him as Vice-Chancellor.

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Mehta, he said, made invaluable contributions to building Ashoka into an institution. “We all regret what has happened, but I am sure we will recover and move forward from the situation we find ourselves in.”

“It would be no exaggeration to say that some of my colleagues, including faculty members and some Founders, and myself drew up the core values of Ashoka – critical thinking, intellectual autonomy, learning through debate and interaction, the importance of social responsibility, and of moral courage. Ashoka University and its reputation stand on these pillars,” he said.

“We have always been and will remain committed to academic freedom and intellectual independence, This is why Ashoka has set new standards in higher education in India. With our additional commitment to excellence, I do not doubt that we will continue to scale new heights,” he added.

Stating that he had to engage very closely with the founders in building and fundraising for the university, he said these are individuals who have worked selflessly and tirelessly to build Ashoka into what it is today.

“Most of us were introduced to Ashoka by them. They have worked alongside us and seamlessly with us. Ashoka has a unique and unprecedented governance model that is collaborative but has natural guardrails to preserve academic integrity and independence,” he said.

“As Ashoka University overcomes these difficult times and moves forward. I hope you will stay unwavering in your support for our quest to build India’s greatest university,” he added.

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