You want to change the brand of negative perception of JNU; university represents dissent, difference and diversity: newly appointed VC
In an exclusive interview with indianexpress.com, Pandit, who will serve as VC for the next five years after taking over from M Jagadesh Kumar, shared his immediate plans for college.
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“With my appointment, the current government has broken three glass ceilings. I am a backward class woman from a state that does not speak Hindi,” JNU’s new VC said.
The central university was established in 1969 and it took more than five decades for a woman to fill the leadership position of JNU. She added that the welfare of women is strongly influenced by literacy and educated participation within and outside the family, but the government does not have adequate representation of women on selection committees, although it is statutory.
“The survival disadvantage of women compared to men is very bad. We still have issues of domestic violence and marital rape that are not being properly addressed. More than literacy and education, everyone must be made aware. I’ve met professors who think it’s their right to make misogynistic comments about women. They need to be made aware of ethics in the workplace and that is the first thing to do at JNU,” said the 59-year-old, who earned her doctorate in international relations at the School of International Studies. of JNU in 1990.
“…People say that we at JNU are some of the most enlightened people. But the question is, are we? A few months ago we had a very serious sexual assault incident on campus and I would not want such a thing to happen again,” Pandit added.
Speaking on how gender equity is the need of the hour instead of gender equality, Pandit said one of her visions is to make “JNU a much more respectful campus of the sexes”.
“At JNU, we have a lot of dhabas and I would like to give ownership to the women’s self-help groups (SHGs). When we talk about equity, we are talking about equal access. I agree that JNU today has more female students than males, but female representation is only increasing at entry levels. Is there structural violence against women entering a career? Women do not progress to associate professor or professor level as quickly as men,” Pandit said.
She told indianexpress.com that a few men contacted her to support women’s choice to wear the headscarf on education campuses amid the hijab row that took place in Karnataka.
“My philosophy at JNU is that everyone decides what they want to wear. Here we have no rules or regulations and it has to be an individual choice, but I don’t want men to decide what women have to wear. I told those boys who came that if you want to wear hijab, then come and talk,” the Vice Chancellor said.
Pandit aims to “make JNU a much more student-centric campus”. “It (JNU) is a unique and inclusive campus. He has a social commitment, and this character must be maintained. I am worried because I am an alumnus of this university… I walked this path because the university opened up a world to me when I came from Tamil Nadu. I want students who come here to have a similar experience so they can move on to higher positions and make the most of the facilities we can offer,” she added.
Scanning is another major task on his to-do list as JNU VC. “Resources, facilities and infrastructure need to be improved, and we are in the throes of a financial crisis, so that too needs to be managed. We see how we can make it a more welcoming campus from both an academic and research excellence perspective,” Pandit said.
Pandit pointed out that student strength has tripled since she was on the university campus and she wants to make the campus a “better place”.
“We were around 3,000 students then, and now we have around 9,000 students. At the time, we only had seven hostels compared to around 17 today. I want as many students as possible, from different parts of India to come to the campus and study which was also the case when I was a student… We can make it a better place and change the brand of a very negative perception of JNU, on which I feel really sad. But what JNU really stands for is dissent, difference and diversity,” she said.