|George Yeo-Nalanda University|
Eminent professors Amartya Sen, Sugata Bose and Lord Meghnad Desai were part of the board. Significantly, the resignation came on the university’s Foundation Day. In his letter, Mr. Yeo expressed concern at the turn of events which, he said, were likely to impact the autonomy of the university that has academics and students from the world over on its rolls.
Mr. Yeo said the November 21 order dissolving the Governing Board had come as “a complete surprise.” “I was neither involved in the preparation nor was consulted beforehand,” he said in the letter. When Mr. Yeo took over from Prof. Sen last year, he was repeatedly assured that the university would retain its autonomy, he said. “This appears not to be the case now. With deep sadness, I have submitted my letter of resignation to the Visitor,” Mr. Yeo wrote.
“When I was appointed the Chancellor in July 2016, I was told that a new Governing Board would be formed under an amended act, core aspects of which the Ministry of External Affairs sought my views on.
“The amended Act would have removed a major flaw in the current Act, which, in essence, offers Governing Board seats to East Asian Summit countries, making the highest financial contributions in the last three years. The provision was never recommended by the Nalanda Mentor Group,” he said.
“For reasons not entirely clear to me, the Government of India has decided to form the new Governing Board with immediate effect before the Act was amended. Pending the appointment of a new Vice-Chancellor, the incumbent Dr. Gopa Sabbarwal was to stay on as the interim Vice-Chancellor to ensure that there is no hiatus in the leadership of the university,” he wrote.
However, on Tuesday, the Visitor overruled the Governing Board and directed that the senior-most dean be appointed instead.
“The circumstances under which the leadership change in Nalanda University has been suddenly and summarily effected is disturbing and is harmful to the University’s development,” Mr. Yeo said.
Reacting to the resignation, former Harvard Professor and Trinamool Congress MP Sugata Bose said: “Yeo has done a dignified thing under the most aggravating circumstances. The basic courtesy of informing him about the decisions was not extended to him.”
“It is with sadness that we need to ponder whether this kind of behaviour helps in enhancing our prestige in the comity of East Asian Countries,” Prof. Bose added.
Founded in 2010, the university was the brainchild of the previous UPA government and the Nalanda Mentor Group was formed to set up the international university.
The Nalanda University Act 2010 was passed by Parliament and came into force on November 25, 2010. The newly-constituted Board will have the Chancellor, the Vice-Chancellor, five members from the member states of India, China, Australia, Laos and Thailand. Former bureaucrat and BJP member N. K. Singh has been nominated as the Indian representative to the Board.
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