Interview with Prof. Chintamani Mahapatra, Rector – I, JNU
JNU News: When and how did your association with JNU start?
Prof. Mahapatra: I have been associated with JNU since 1978 when I joined the M.A. Degree Programme of the School of International Studies. The new campus had not been fully operational then and classes used to be held in the JNU down campus. After M.A., I continued to study at JNU and completed my M. Phil and Ph. D. degrees as well.
JNU News: How do you feel about this transition from an academic role of being a Professor to purely administrative role of being the Rector?
Prof. Mahapatra: As and when I was doing the teaching job, I had also acquired some administrative experiences as a Senior Warden in a Hostel, Centre Chairperson and Acting Dean. However, the job of the Rector is indubitably quantitatively and qualitatively more exigent. Although I devote a lot of time to administrative works, including at times during the week-ends as well, I have remained committed to my academic activities as well. I have taken classes, published research articles, presented papers in seminars, written All India Radio commentaries, appeared in panel discussions in various TV networks and also have guided research students. It is hard work and I hope to sustain this effort.
JNU News: What exactly is the role of the Rector in a university? Can you enlighten us about that?
Prof. Mahapatra: The Rector of a university combines the role of an academic with the responsibility of an administrator. One who should be aware of the issues and concerns of the academic community and try to be a good education administrator to facilitate academic activities within the permissible rules and regulations.
JNU News: What are your immediate goals as the Rector?
Prof. Mahapatra: I have tried to stay connected with the University's academic community--students, research scholars and faculty to listen to their concerns and problems and have taken timely steps to address those. One of my foremost goals is to enlarge the academic activities by encouraging, assisting and even participating in the efforts made by various Schools and Special Centres. I function as part of the administrative team selected by the Vice Chancellor and aim at bringing about certain administrative reforms to expedite decision making, to make the campus look more exquisite than what it has been, make living in the campus more congenial and comfortable, so that on the whole campus ambience enhances study and research. One of my goals furthermore is to encourage various extra-curricular activities that can help personality development, promote social cohesion and deepen national integration.
JNU News: How has your experience in JNU been so far? Is there any one memory that stands out?
Prof. Mahapatra: I have both good and not-so-good memories. Yet, sweet memories are more. One such memory dates back to my days in London where I resided for about a year as a Commonwealth Scholar at the School of Oriental and African Studies of the University of London. On a week-end, I was walking along the famous Oxford Street and suddenly someone tapped my back. When I turned, I saw another JNUite. We shook hands, hugged each other and, more interestingly, we did not even know our names or Schools at JNU we were from. Yet, we spoke, introduced each other, and spent some time together. It often happens to JNUites!! We had seen each other multiple times in the campus and never greeted each other, but once out of JNU....
JNU News: What, according to you, makes JNU different?
Prof. Mahapatra: JNU is truly inimitable. The social demography in JNU has made it a mini-India. Peaceful co-living of students, staff and faculty with very diverse social, geographical and economic backgrounds, is exceptionally extraordinary. When students pass out and leave JNU to pursue their respective careers, they realise that they are no longer the same person when they first came to JNU. The university has changed their personality, outlook, and attitude to life. JNU is a transformational institution and it provides a distinct identity to those who pass out from here. It is one of the very few violence-free campuses in the country. The intellectual ambience is everybody's envy.
JNU News: In what ways do you think JNU has changed from the time you were here to now?
Prof. Mahapatra: JNU has certainly become more green and much more picturesque over the years. JNU Campus is regarded as the lungs of South Delhi. The number of schools, fields of study and research, number of seminars, conferences, workshops have enormously increased, compared to the time I was a student. In addition, our research scholars have begun to publish articles and research papers. Population of foreign students has also considerably expanded.
JNU News: What message do you have to the JNU community?
Prof. Mahapatra: In a fast changing world, quantity and quality of challenges have become enormous. Competition is rising by the hour. We all should do our best to sustain our excellence and further enhance our academic achievements. I think every member of the JNU community, every office, every centre, every school needs to develop a set of annual goals, an action plan and systematically strive to achieve those goals. Secondly, in this era of intense social networks and instant information transmission, we should also be aware that the world is watching us. What we do and do not do are monitored by the society and we have to live up to our goals and commitments. We owe a lot to the society and we must give back by contributing to the social goods. And we can do that when we all are united, cooperative and work in unison to bring a good name to ourselves and to JNU.