The Registrar of Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) has written to historian Romila Thapar asking for her curriculum vitae (CV) so that a university-appointed committee could look into her work and decide if she can continue as a professor emerita, The Print reported on Saturday. Thapar had retired several years ago in 1991 and was honoured with the title soon after.
“It is a very unfortunate thing,” Thapar told Anandabazar. “We are going through a strange time. Emeritus is not a mere designation. It is an honour related to the university’s goodwill.”
Her colleague, Prabhat Patnaik, an economist, political commentator and a professor emeritus at JNU, in a letter to Economic and Political Weekly this week, said the current executive council of the JNU seems to be unaware of even the meaning of "an emeritus professorship".
"It seems to think that it is an appointment against a post for which there are multiple applications. An emeritus position is completely different. There are no posts and nobody ever applies for it. It is an honour conferred for life by the university on a retiring or retired professor in appreciation of their outstanding past work," he wrote in his letter.
Patnaik says the University doesn't make any special arrangements such as finance for the post to engage the services of the concerned professor. The title, once conferred, is recognition of outstanding contribution and research of the professor, he said.
He also said since these professors weren't filling any particular category of posts, there was no question of making any of these positions available to other potential candidates. "It costs the university nothing. The choice of professor emeritus is a comment on the academic values of the university. There can be any number of such professors," he said.
Patnaik said that Thapar, in her response, asked the JNU administration about what the committee was exactly going to asses and how. "Is it going to give a grade to the books that she has published since becoming a professor emerita, the major one, The Past before Us, being a pioneering study of historiography in early India?" he wrote in EPW.