Ashoka University on Sunday, March 21, acknowledged that "lapses in institutional processes" with respect to the resignations of the academics Pratap Bhanu Mehta and Arvind Subramanian, and said it will work to rectify them.
"We acknowledge that there have been some lapses in institutional processes, which we will work to rectify in consultation with all stakeholders. This will reaffirm our commitment to academic autonomy and freedom, which have always been at the core of Ashoka University's ideals," the university said.
The joint statement was signed by Chancellor Rudrangshu Mukherjee, Vice-Chancellor Malabika Sarkar, Mr Mehta, Mr Subramanian, and Ashish Dhawan, the Chairman the university's Board of Trustees, reported NDTV.
Students To Boycott Classes
The statement comes after the university student government on Saturday, March 20, announced that they would hold a "two-day boycott of classes" next week to protest the resignation of the two professors. The students demand that both professors be reinstated.
As per the statement issued on Saturday, Ashoka University Students Government called for "a public acknowledgement by the founders" of Mehta's declaration about "political liability" and assurance that he would be "given a public unconditional offer letter" Hindustan Times reported.
They also demanded an open meeting between the founders and the student body and the transfer of administrative powers and responsibilities from the founders to elected faculty, student, and administration officials.
The students would protest until their concerns are addressed. If they are not discussed by Tuesday, March 23, they would "organise a separate movement demanding the Vice-Chancellor's resignation, as per the statement.
'Free Speech Suffered Blow'
Earlier former Reserve Bank of India governor Raghuram Rajan had expressed dissatisfaction over the resignations and emphasised the importance of free speech, in a Linkedin post.
Rajan said "free speech" is the soul of a great university, and by "compromising on it, the founders (of Ashoka) have bartered away its soul."
"The reality is that professor Mehta is a thorn in the side of the establishment. He is no ordinary thorn because he skewers those in government and high offices like the Supreme Court with vivid prose and thought-provoking arguments," he added.
University Denies Charges
However, Vice-chancellor Malabika Sarkar on Thursday denied charges that Mehta was asked to resign because of his role as a government critic during a town hall meeting with students.
"I spoke with Pratap and tried to persuade him not to leave Ashoka and to withdraw his resignation on multiple occasions," she added.
On March 15, Mehta resigned, which sparked outrage among the University students, faculty, and academicians across India and abroad.
Mehta's resignation letter said, "After a meeting with Founders, it has become abundantly clear to me that my association with the University may be considered a political liability. My public writing supporting a politic that tries to honour constitutional values of freedom and equal respect for all citizens is perceived to carry risks for the University. In the interests of the University, I resign."
Support From Overseas Universities
Following Mehta's resignation, former chief economic advisor, Arvind Subramanian also resigned on Friday morning. He stated that he was "devastated" by Mehta's resignation, adding to that he said this represented the University's unwillingness to defend "academic freedom and expression."
In a letter to VC Sarkar, many faculty members expressed concern that Mehta's departure would set a "chilling precedent."
Over 150 academics from universities around the world have come out in support of Mehta. The signatories included Homi K Bhabha, Anne F Rothenberg, professor of humanities at Harvard University, Erwin Chemerinsky, dean at the University of California Berkeley School of Law; Rogers Smith, Partha Chatterjee of Columbia University; Faisal Devji, professor of Indian history, University of Oxford; and Lawrence Lessig of Harvard Law School.