Trouble at Mumbai University's theatre academy

Updated: Jan 19, 2020, 07:21 IST | Pallavi Smart | Mumbai

Dr Yogesh Soman, ex-director of the Academy of Theatre Arts, has been sent on leave but students continue to protest


Mumbai University's Academy of Theatre Arts continues to remain under a cloud of controversy, even as its contentious director Dr Yogesh Soman has been asked to go on compulsory leave. A long sit-in protest by students of the academy compelled the university to also form a committee to conduct an official inquiry. Dr Ganesh Chandanshive has been given the additional charge of the director's post.

Dr Soman was seen criticising Rahul Gandhi in a video which went viral. The National Students Union of India (NSUI) demanded that action be taken against the professor. Former Chief Minister of Maharashtra, Devendra Fadnavis of the BJP, wrote to the current chief minister, Uddhav Thackeray, in support of the professor. He asked that action taken against Dr Soman be revoked.

Apoorva Ingle, a student and the cultural secretary of Chhatrabharati, who led the protest, said, "Apart from the issues which came to light after the political debate over Dr Soman's statements, we, as students, are bothered about a lot of other issues. There is a dearth of good faculty members who can teach at the masters level. During the admission process, the prospectus promised us that we would be taught by capable faculty members. But none of them teach at the academy anymore. When we met them for assignments, we were told they wouldn't come to the academy because of differences with Dr Soman. Currently, Dr Soman has been sent on leave and Dr Chandanshive has been given additional charge. But, there is no clarity on what will happen on the faculty front here on."

Dr Yogesh Soman, students demand better faculty
Dr Yogesh Soman, students demand better faculty

Students have started attending lectures but all of them have been wearing black ribbons. This is to ensure that the discussion does not end as their issues remain unresolved, they say. With only a few months remaining for the academic session to end, the academic syllabus is nowhere near completion. Students said that they lost out on six months because of the previous director and that it was unfair of the varsity to demand that they finish their course in the next three months.

The Registrar of Mumbai University, Ajay Deshmukh, assured that the students won't face any academic loss. He said, "Work has already begun to modify the structure of the course such that expert faculties will be invited. Dr Chandanshive has already met with the students in the presence of varsity officials. We are planning to resolve all concerns step by step."

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