21 September, 2018

Blog

Ensure Academic Freedom In Jaffna University: JUSTA

The Jaffna University Science Teachers’ Association (JUSTA) today called upon authorities to take necessary steps to ensure academic freedom and freedom of expression in the University of Jaffna.

Vasanthi Arasaratnam - Jaffna VC

Vasanthi Arasaratnam – Jaffna VC

“A discussion on a book is an academic exercise. An academic culture is nurtured by reexamining existing theories and beliefs, proposing new theories and discussing them openly. Stopping an academic exercise without any tangible threat to public order is a grave violation of academic freedom.” the Jaffna University Science Teachers’ Association said min a statement.

Issuing a statement on Vice Chancellor’s banning of the discussion of the book ‘Palmyra Fallen: From Rajani to War’s End’, JUSTA says;”If a discussion by academics on a freely available book cannot be held in a University where else can such an activity be organized? We request all those concerned with academic freedom, freedom of expression and the protection of our well-being to condemn this action by the Vice Chancellor of University of Jaffna and urge the authorities to take necessary steps to ensure that such arbitrary measures that blight our future are not repeated in the future.”

We publish below the statement in full;

Statement by JUSTA on Vice Chancellor’s Banning of a Book Discussion

The Jaffna University Science Teachers’ Association (JUSTA) organized on 24th April 2015 a discussion of the book ‘Palmyra Fallen: From Rajani to War’s End’ authored by one of its members, Dr.Rajan Hoole, who is a Senior Lecturer in Mathematics. Since the book speaks of the current situation, public interest was anticipated in the discussion. Therefore, the invitation welcomed their participation.

As outsiders to the University were expected, the organizers (the JUSTA) routinely sought the Vice Chancellor’s permission by letter of 17th April 2015. In a meeting with the Deans on 21st April 2015 the Vice Chancellor read out a letter from the President of the University Students’ Union that alleged that the proposed discussion would disturb the peace in the University and wanted it stopped. Certain academics had told the student that politicians from the South were coming for the meeting with a sinister agenda, although the advertisement made it clear that all speakers were academics. The Vice Chancellor spoke along the same lines to the deans.

Subsequently the JUSTA received a letter from the Vice Chancellor dated 21.04.2015 informing them: ‘It has been decided that this type of activities are not allowed within the University of Premises’ (sic). Then it stated: ‘I regret to inform you that permission is not granted in respect of your request.’

We learned later that this student leader did not convene a meeting of the Executive Committee of the USU and knew nothing about the book. In an interview with the BBC-Tamil Service the Vice Chancellor too admitted neither having read the book nor seen it.

The following points call for the immediate attention of community leaders and politicians of our country.

  • This book discusses the recent history of our country and its background. The author is an academic of the University of Jaffna. It does not advocate terrorism or violence. The book is available in leading bookshops. It had been on display at the Library of the University of Jaffna for several days and has now been shelved.
  • The speakers in the discussion were all academics. One of them is a Professor from University of Peradeniya, one is a Senior Lecturer in the Open University and two others are from the University of Jaffna; one a Professor and the other a Senior Lecturer. None of them were ever associated with any activity that had ‘disturbed peace in the University’ in the past.
  • When the Vice Chancellor received the said letter from the President of the USU it was her duty to call for a discussion of USU with the organizers (JUSTA) to sort out the differences. She did nothing of that kind. She had two requests: one was a letter from JUSTA, with the approval of its Committee, to have a discussion on a book, and the other was a personal letter from the President of USU without the sanction of the Committee to stop the discussion. She took the decision to stop the discussion without giving JUSTA a chance to respond to the student leader’s allegations.
  • The Vice Chancellor also told the BBC-Tamil about a letter from the University Teachers’ Association, which allegedly requested a ban on the discussion. However, no information about this letter was given to the Deans in the meeting where the USU President’s letter was read out. This raises suspicion. The UTA President had declined to clarify the matter although the UTA has refused to call an emergency general body meeting requested by several members to clarify the issues.
  • Realizing that the Vice Chancellor’s act was in defiance of the well-established norms of a University and the stated Mission, Vision and Goals of our University and after learning that the UGC Chairman had intimated to the Vice Chancellor about the improper nature of her decision, the JUSTA conducted the said discussion as planned after informing the Vice Chancellor.

It should be noted that the discussion was well received by all those who participated. It did not ‘disturb the peace in the University’ as alleged by the student leader. More importantly, neither this student leader nor anyone else carried out any protest when the discussion was held as scheduled.

A discussion on a book is an academic exercise. An academic culture is nurtured by reexamining existing theories and beliefs, proposing new theories and discussing them openly. Stopping an academic exercise without any tangible threat to public order is a grave violation of academic freedom. If a discussion by academics on a freely available book cannot be held in a University where else can such an activity be organized? We request all those concerned with academic freedom, freedom of expression and the protection of our well-being to condemn this action by the Vice Chancellor of University of Jaffna and urge the authorities to take necessary steps to ensure that such arbitrary measures that blight our future are not repeated in the future.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Latest comments

  • 2
    0

    The VC needs to be utterly condemned. But I am puzzled by this part of the JUSTA statement:

    “As outsiders to the University were expected, the organizers (the JUSTA) routinely sought the Vice Chancellor’s permission by letter of 17th April 2015.”

    In all the universities in the world I know when a seminar is held, no one seeks the VC’s permission. From where does this practice originate? Perhaps by asking JUSTA gave the VC the opening to block them.

  • 7
    1

    The species called the Homo Jaffians are very good at serving alien masters, but when it comes to working for their own community they cut each others’ throat. This fact is well known to anthropologists though they don’t talk about it openly because of their belief in political correctness.

    • 4
      1

      I repeat, the bane of the Tamils is that the quarrel within/among themselves on ALL matters!!
      Can anyone disapprove this please.

    • 0
      0

      You may be true. That also shows that they do not accept “anyone” just because they are Tamils. They want the best one, the right one.

  • 2
    0

    Rajan Hoole may in the eyes of some be a despicable person with his own curious views. But, still, he must have the right to state them and be judged by his peers.

    It is not possible for a woman appointed by a political thug to appreciate the finer points of academic freedom at a university. She has not been to proper universities where such notions exist. Neither has she got credible qualifications to teach let alone be a VC apart from the formidable art of sucking up to the powers that be which qualified many people to high positions under the MR government. One would have thought that the new government would remove this woman. It seems that this is not to be.

  • 3
    0

    She wrote ” University of Premises”. Poor medical students at university of Jaffna

  • 1
    0

    Now that the University Council has been replaced, it is high time that this VC too, is relieved of her post.
    There are enough reasons, least being her administration according to the whims & fancies of the local politician who propped up the dethroned tyrant in and out of Sri Lanka, and who was totally rejected by northern citizens at the last election.
    If the Chair of UGC can be got rid of, so can, a VC.

  • 2
    0

    In the belief of political correctness one should not upset the Tamils. But he’ll with political correctness and do the right by relieving her from the VC post.
    To keep a politically appointed VC with not enough credentials and destroy the name of the university and destroy the future of our students are in my opinion is a cowardly act to succumb to the demands of the local politician.
    Who to decide??
    Not the local politician.

  • 0
    0

    Correction above due to typo

    Read as hell with political correction.

  • 3
    1

    Replacement of council members is opening step to reform the university. But university need to go very far a way to obtain prominent place in academic excellence.

    Next step should replace the unqualified VC and other cronies; rectors, deans and heads. Most of these people are either no PhDs or holding bogus PhDs and they may be more suitable to administrations of primary schools.

    • 1
      1

      I agree with you for most of the part. but being an administrator is completely different game, even for people with super academic qualifications.

  • 1
    0

    Off the wall: Punchinilame.

    I do agree!

Leave A Comment

Comments should not exceed 300 words. Embedding external links and writing in capital letters are discouraged. Commenting is automatically shut off on articles after 10 days and approval may take up to 24 hours. Please read our Comments Policy for further details. Your email address will not be published.