The silence of the government regarding what is happening (and also not happening) at DMU is deafening. It reflects the reluctance of the ruling disposition to intervene in matters that do not translate to electoral gains, no matter how grave and serious.
By Lourembam Poireiton Meitei
Before the establishment of Dhanamanjuri University in 2018, the 5 constituent colleges under DMU (Dhanamanjuri University) were under Manipur University. ‘Dhanamanjuri College’ was a brand in itself with a legacy of quality education. Today, Dhanamanjuri University faces an existential crisis. To a close observer, it is futile to try to point out the main problems because there are too many. However, we shall try to make sense of this amorphous din that has haunted the university ever since its creation.
Shortage of teaching (and non-teaching) staff, no academic calendar, no classes, no access to library, no marksheets, no platform for literary, sports and extra-curricular events and police brutality are the salient features of the university. In fact, the above grievances have been repeated over and over, to the point where they become meaningless and redundant. In this article, we shall mainly explore the conflict between the DMUTA (DMU teachers’ Association) and the DMU authority and what this has meant for the students.
The concerns of teachers are many and justified. Demand for 7th pay commission by FEGOCTA, issue of bifurcation, issue of promotion, application for 12B status and the most pressing is the current demand for classification of teachers between UG (under graduate) and PG (post graduate). This demand for classification is raised by DMUTA (Dhanamanjuri University Teachers’ Association). This demand is voiced through abstention from academic activities (boycott of classes), which is greatly detrimental for the students of the university.
However, regarding this demand, the opinions of teachers are not unequivocal. The DMUTA recommends to list 7 teachers from each department to teach PG courses. However, the strength of teachers in various departments is different. There is also shortage of teachers, for both UG and PG courses. Some teachers offer that they should teach both UG and PG courses for the meanwhile, yet others maintain that there should be a clear- cut classification.
Many teachers who have been teaching PG courses since 2018 do not meet the required qualifications under the 2018 UGC (University Guidelines Commission) norms. But they were utilized because of shortage of teachers. Presently, there arises various interests among the teacher community. The DMU authority has been incapable of handling this dilemma. There is also an evident apathy and indifference on the side of both DMU authority and DMUTA on what this conflict means for the student. The students bear a hugely disproportionate cost.
The students initially extended solidarity to various teachers’ causes. At the same point of time, we observe that ‘boycott of classes’ has become a tradition. Boycott of classes as a one-time/ short term measure could be understood but it should not be expected of the students to remain sympathetic to the very process that perpetually victimizes them. There is a need for the teacher community to explore alternative avenues for expressing their grievances.
On December 19, 2020, the University Authority issued an advertisement for the post of 88 Assistant professors in 22 departments and 170 non-teaching staff under different categories. The shortage of staff at all departments is at the heart of all issues at DMU. From this shortage arise all the other problems like the issue of classification, confusion and the breakdown of co-ordination within and without the departments. Then the natural question is why, in 2023, is the recruitment process still not complete? From the DMU authority we observe stubborn indifference, a stiff inaction to which the teachers respond with equal temper.
This war of attrition between the DMUTA and the DMU authority reflects very self-centered motives on both sides with little room for compromise and solutions. The student is the cornerstone of the university. They are the ‘why’ which gives meaning and purpose to the institution. Had the teachers’ associations or the DMU authority kept this in mind, much of what has unfolded would not have happened.
The above cumulative factors in turn lead to alienation of the student from the learning ecosystem. The relation between the student and teacher which the teaching-learning process nurtures is sacred. This relationship is not the mere transfer of data during classes. But it is the personality of the teacher, the wisdom which the teacher embodies, to which the student responds with respect and reverence, a bond which has sadly been lost.
Simultaneously, the organic voice of the student community also becomes lost. With no proper students’ union, there is no channel for students to articulate and formulate a collective and constructive voice. The culture of learning, group discussions, of publication and production of new knowledge becomes irrelevant. Instead, students now look to ‘previous year questions’ to prepare for exams, which reflect their shallow expectation from the education system. And amongst all, students from unfavorable socio-economic background are the most marginalized.
Recently, we heard news of some students destroying classrooms because they were not allowed to use unfair means in the exam. A fortnight later, the DMU authority used the police force to physically assault students inside their own university campus. These may look like two separate incidents but on close examination, they both allude to the same thing and clearly draw the picture of the existing condition of academia in the state.
Also, the silence of the government regarding what is happening (and also not happening) at DMU is deafening. It reflects the reluctance of the ruling disposition to intervene in matters that do not translate to electoral gains, no matter how grave and serious. Without political will and executive sincerity, the technical and structural anomalies of the university will not disappear by itself. It is imperative of the state to prioritize and deliver what needs to be done. Immediate completion of the recruitment process for teaching and non-teaching staff, which has been due for years, will be a good first step.
There comes a need for every stakeholder to come together and re envision a collective picture of Dhanamanjuri University; an intellectual, ethical and futuristic perspective that can embody the solutions for various needs of our society. Can the newly established Dhanamanjuri University be a sanctuary for the dreams of the youth of Manipur? Can it conceive and nurture for them an inclusive future, where students and teachers from all communities strive and thrive together? For now I can only anticipate, for now hope is all I have.
(Lourembam Poireiton Meitei studies MA Political Science, 3rd semester at the Dhanamanjuri University)