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DU Hindi Dept row: How does a professor become Head of Department?

Indian Express 2019-10-08 12:52:44
The biggest power that an HoD has is that they are part of the selection committee to recruit teachers. (File Photo)

The position of the Head of the University of Delhi’s Department of Hindi has been lying vacant for almost a month now because two veteran members of the department, Professors Sheoraj Singh Bechain and K N Tripathi, have both staked claim to the post, and are refusing to back off. Both professors insist they are the seniormost and must, therefore, be made HoD.

How are Heads of Department at DU appointed?

Heads of Department (HoD) of DU are supposed to be appointed by rotation on the basis of seniority. A single term as Head lasts for three years as per DU ordinances, and a second term is strongly discouraged. However, the Vice-Chancellor has the discretion to make appointments in extraordinary cases.

“The Head of the Department shall be appointed by the Vice-Chancellor by observing, as far as possible, the principle of rotation. Such appointments shall be reported to the Executive Council,” the ordinances say. “If for any reason it has not been possible to appoint a person as Head of the Department who is senior to the person (persons) who has already served or is serving as Head of the Department, it shall be open to the Vice-Chancellor to appoint that person as Head of the Department,” the ordinances add.

That is the question that the university ordinances do not answer.

Essentially, there are two ways in which someone can become a Professor — either by direct recruitment to the post, or by promotion under the Career Advancement Scheme (CAS).

In the case of the Hindi Department, Sheoran Singh was a direct recruit whereas K N Tripathi comes under the CAS bracket, which has led to a contest.

The UGC Rules on the matter state: “The inter-se seniority of a direct recruit shall be determined with reference to the date of joining and for the teachers promoted under CAS with reference to the date of eligibility as indicated in the recommendations of the selection committee of the respective candidates.”

The university will now take a call on the tussle between the two senior Hindi professors.

No — and the issue of direct recruitment vs CAS is the reason there has been a tussle for the position of HoD in DU earlier too. Some teachers have alleged that the rules of seniority and rotation are not uniformly followed in all cases. There have been controversies with regard to the appointment of HoDs in the Departments of Library Sciences, Zoology, and Botany among others.

Quite apart from the exalted title that suggests a special position among peers, what makes the post of HoD highly coveted is that it carries administrative powers. By virtue of being an HoD, a teacher becomes part of the Academic Council, and is also made a member of various university-appointed committees from time to time.

The biggest power that an HoD has, though, is that they are part of the selection committee to recruit teachers.

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