The talk in the corridors of Mumbai University is more about politics than education these days. It’s the general trend that anything that goes up must come down, and sadly, the University of Mumbai is no exception, having fallen on hard times lately. The university that we were all so proud of once has now given us so many reasons to be ashamed — question paper leaks and delays in examinations being just a few.

Things hit a new low when Professor Neeraj Hatekar was suspended, all because he held up a rather unflattering picture of the university’s administration at a conference. Hatekar’s basic contention is that he wasn’t even heard, and was suspended without being given a chance to express or establish his opinion about the administration.

The current VC, Dr Rajan Welukar, has been under fire from all sides for a very long time, and it’s even been said that the standards of the university have gone from bad to worse under his leadership.

The recent imbroglio has brought nothing but controversy and shame to the university. From removing books from the syllabus because a political party didn’t endorse it, to holding student council elections at the end of the academic year, the university today stands for everything except education.

The ones who have sadly been caught in the crossfire are the hapless students. Students stand like mute spectators in this charade, afraid of action if they speak out against the university — something that could cost them their careers. Ironically, the basic principles of democracy are being challenged in an institution that should impart them.

Franklin D Roosevelt had said, ‘The real safeguard for democracy is education.’ With the recent ongoings at the bastion of education in the city, it seems that democracy itself is at stake. The university has lost its charm, and more importantly, it’s dignity. The university needs to get over petty politics in the greater interest of its reputation and its students. It’s hard to imagine a breed of confident youngsters coming from an institution where dissent is silenced in such absolute terms.