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Mehta, Subramanian's leaving a tremendous loss: Trustee Board chief
New Delhi, March 21, 2021
Admitting that the departures of Professors Pratap Bhanu Mehta and Arvind Subramanian "make us all feel a tremendous loss", Ashoka University's Board of Trustees Chairman Ashish Dhawan reassured the students that there was nothing for them to fear.
"As an institution, we are committed to freedom in every aspect. Even as we evolve, this commitment will never fade," he said in a letter to students and alumni.
Dhawan added that he deeply regrets any lapses that led to this situation and the departure of Mehta and Subramanian from the university.
In the letter, he said: "I have known Professor Pratap Bhanu Mehta closely for over a decade. I worked intensely with our faculty and then as Vice Chancellor to bring him to Ashoka. For me, Pratap is not just rightfully India's foremost public intellectual but also a friend from whom I have learned a lot.
"We have jointly co-created Ashoka from Day One. I, of course, worked closely with him when he was the Vice Chancellor and most recently on the Centre for China Studies. I worked for months with Pratap to bring Professor Arvind Subramanian to Ashoka and I am privileged and honoured to have worked with him as well on several projects, including the Centre for Economic Policy. It has been an absolute delight to work with both of them in building Ashoka and I am as saddened as you are at their departure. I deeply regret any lapses that led to this situation - this was not something we had anticipated or planned."
"I assure you that Ashoka is a space that aims to empower its entire community and build on its core values. I know that this week has been full of anguish but it is in these moments that it becomes critical for us to come together and move forward. I admit that the departures of Professors Mehta and Subramanian make us all feel a tremendous loss but there is nothing for you to fear," he added.
Chancellor Rudrangshu Mukherjee also responded to attacks as Ashoka University's commitment to core values and Founders and Trustees' role are being questioned in the wake of the recent resignation of Mehta.
"I want to respond to this. First, Pratap is a close personal friend and someone who I immensely respect. I was involved in bringing him to Ashoka, and he succeeded me as Vice Chancellor. He has made invaluable contributions to building Ashoka into the institution it is today.
"We all regret what has happened, but I am sure we will recover and move forward from the situation we find ourselves in," he said.
"Today when the Founders are being attacked for trying to compromise and curtail academic autonomy and freedom of expression, I find it necessary as Chancellor, and given my association with Ashoka from its inception, to state unambiguously that the Founders have never interfered with academic freedom: faculty members have been left free to construct their own courses, follow their own methods of teaching and their own methods of assessment. They have also been left free to carry out their own research and publications," Mukherjee added.