If one makes a google search for a good university, he or she would expect entries related to academics, new programmes, research projects, inventions by research scholars, bright results etc. The universities of Cambridge, Harvard and even Delhi have similar results to show on google. But a search for North Eastern Hill University (NEHU) would direct the user to news items such as students demanding ouster of professor accused of sexual assault, teachers going for strike for pay hike and promotion, communal clash in the campus. What is happening, in a Central university? If such things continue, the day will not be far when NEHU would cease to become a “centre of excellence”. Students of the state, let alone from other states, would not be interested to study in the university.
More than the teachers, bright students are the pillars of any university. The mini-township like campus of the university and its heftily-paid professors would not be able to save it from the danger of becoming insignificant, if good students stop joining it. And to be a centre of excellence, the university’s prerequisite is to reach out to the world. Harvard and Cambridge are big names since they have the best of the world, both teachers and students. Harvard would not have been known outside Massachusetts, US and Cambridge outside England had there been barriers for bright scholars and students from outside. The incidents of vociferous protests by students as well as teachers – for whatever reasons – would certainly force a student to give a second thought before bargaining his career at NEHU.
Some say the administration at NEHU went downhill because of absence of a permanent vice-chancellor. That cannot be the sole reason. The organizations of students and teachers in the university should try to hit headlines for things they should do in a university. They might be doing the good job as well, but what is there for common people to read about the university is utterly discouraging. Everyone should mend their ways. The NEHU teachers, deemed as top scholars of the country, should find softer means to air their grievances such as pay hike and promotion or anything else. Holding strike and, as alleged by reports, inciting students to do so make them no different from common agitators. The students, on the other hand, should give utmost priority to studies and research and leave other matters to the administration. NEHU should not become just a place for grooming future politicians!
(Published as editorial in The Meghalaya Guardian on September 20, 2004)