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Suspended Mumbai University professor takes lecture on footpath

From 3 pm to 5 pm yesterday, 40 MA students attended a lecture on game theory by Neeraj Hatekar, suspended for speaking out against the vice-chancellor, outside the Kalina campus of Mumbai University

While the management at Mumbai University ousted Professor Neeraj Hatekar soon after his press conference against the state of affairs in the university, they seem to have overlooked the small matter of arranging for someone to take over the portion of the syllabus that had been allotted to him.

Professor Neeraj Hatekar
Prof Hatekar at the lecture outside the Kalina campus gate. Pic/Amit Jadhav

His students, however, decided that no one could quite replace their beloved professor. In a show of solidarity for their suspended teacher, the students sat for two hours on the road, braving the elements and straining their ears against the din of the passing traffic, to listen to the academician’s expository on game theory.

The students sat for two hours on the road, straining their ears against the din of the passing traffic, under the watchful eyes of the police. Pic/Amit Jadhav

 

Hatekar, who is a professor in Econometrics in the Economics Department of Mumbai University, was suspended on January 4 for conducting a press conference where he railed against the mismanagement rife in the university administration, and accused the Vice Chancellor Rajan Welukar of violating several university norms. In a subsequent interview with MiD DAY, he was scathing in his criticism of the university (‘Our VC runs the varsity like a kitchen cabinet’, January 11).

Ever since the suspension, his students have been missing him sorely. Eager to hear him address them again, they requested him to deliver the lecture outside the Kalina campus of the university. Around 40 MA students showed up for the lecture outside the university’s main gate. The class continued from 3 pm to 5 pm, with Hatekar discussing the fundamentals of the game theory, such as the prisoner’s dilemma, dominant strategy, and competitive equilibrium.

Students of the varsity claim that they have been feeling the pinch ever since their professor was shunted, in the absence of the lectures that had been allotted to him. They approached Hatekar, who agreed to hold his lectures in General Economics and Statistics outside the university gates, as he no longer has access to a proper classroom. As news of the lecture spread, a team of 25 policemen sped from the Bandra Kurla Complex police station and stood guard at the site, to swoop in and take charge at the first sign of trouble.

Left in the lurch
At the time of his suspension, Hatekar was teaching the Microeconomics- II module to students in the second semester of their MA in Economics course, and multiple linear regression and its extension to fourth semester students. Microeconomics-II is a compulsory subject, while the other is an elective.

Lectures on these subjects have not been held since January 4, said the students. A total of 118 students were being taught these two modules by Hatekar, and were left in the lurch when the lectures were suddenly suspended. The MA in Economics is a credit-based course and a minimum of 72 credits is required to clear the course. Exams are held once every six weeks.

Speaking to MiD DAY about the experience, Dr Hatekar said, “The students requested me to hold the lectures, and I agreed as I don’t want their academics to be hampered because of my suspension. We have decided to have the lectures outside the MU gate, once a day, according to the convenience of the students. I cannot deliver the lecture in any hall, so we had to sit outside the MU gate.

For the first time, a lecture took place alongside a police van. Around 40 students came to attend my lecture today.” Meanwhile, two students were detained by the BKC police for shouting slogans against the suspension during VC Rajan Welukar’s address during the The Octave festival at the Kalina campus last evening.

Former office bearers speak

A professor under suspension can be unofficially permitted to hold a lecture. He should have been told. The option of giving a lecture voluntarily should have been extended to him. The authority should have approached him to tell him that he could come and take the lecture in class for the bonafide students of the university. A suspended professor is supposed to come and report to work every day. There is no reason to stop him. There is very immature leadership in the university. Many times, people on suspension are asked to come and do their work in an emergency. We have done this in the past.
- A D Sawant, former pro vice Chancellor, Mumbai University

What is wrong if Professor Hatekar teaches in the university? Nobody should prevent him from teaching. He may not offer administrative services but if he tells the VC that he is very keen on teaching the students, I don’t think any VC will say no. He should take the initiative and a room will be made available to him. That is the job of the director of the Economics department.
- Dr Snehalata Deshmukh, former vice chancellor

The BUCTU feels the University has taken a decision which is illegal, improper and without following proper procedure. The vice chancellor should withdraw this suspension and since the university has completed 167 historical years, it should think about improving its status.
- C R Sadashivan, president of Bombay University and College teachers Union

Students speak
We have many books to read from, but learning from Hatekar Sir is a different experience altogether.
- Paramita Debnath, MA Part II

It was our first experience of sitting on the footpath to learn from the professor. There was a lot of disturbance, but what could we or Sir do? We are the ones losing out and want to attend sir’s lecture, having missed many of them after his suspension. We are ready to attend his lecture even in the middle of the road. We have no other option.
- Rituparna Bhattacharya, MA Part II, Semester IV

There was a lot of commotion and we were sitting very close in order to listen to him. Sir is such a wonderful teacher that we can go to any extent to attend his lectures. If his suspension is not revoked, will sit here till the end of our semester to attend his lectures.
- Neeraja Vaidya, MA Part II

The Other Side
Vice Chancellor Rajan Welukar of Mumbai University remained unavailable for comment. Dr Naresh Chandra, Pro Vice Chancellor of the varsity, said, “He is not prohibited from campus, but yes since he is suspended, as per the rule, he may not be able to teach. His department knows whether students are missing any lectures or not.”

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