'Leadership Crisis' at Mangalore University ?

Jan 23, 2010

Is the Post Graduate Department of Mass Communication and Journalism (MCJ) of Mangalore University jinxed?  One is forced to ask this question as the department which was established 22 years back has been in the news in the last few years for all wrong reasons.  The department and ill-fated students have seen it all –strikes, agitations, dharnas, memorandums, judicial intervention in the form of stay orders etc., thus maligning the credibility of the department beyond redemption.  The students-lecturers in this department have always been at loggerheads.  One professor was subjected to stone throwing by students; another was accused of being sympathetic to naxal movement and another lecturer who was transferred to Mysore University was also a controversial figure, and finally faced suspension in Mysore University on another controversy. 

Just last year the students had sought judicial intervention following a stalemate of attendance shortage involving the same lecturer  and now once again the students of MCJ have boycotted the classes and taken to the streets resorting to an indefinite dharna demanding transfer or suspension of lecturer of the MCJ Department M P Umeshchandra.  The students are accusing him using abusive language in the class and discrimination on the basis of religion and caste.  38 out of the 43 students of MCJ, both junior and senior are participating in the indefinite dharna. 

Street Fight 

The matter has now snowballed into a huge controversy as the these students on dharna have been able to garner the support of the students of all the departments of the university who expressed their solidarity by boycotting the classes on 19th by staging a dharna in front of the offices of the Vice Chancellor and the Registrar.  Though they withdrew their dharna following an assurance by the VC that the Syndicate would meet on 23rd to take stock of the situation, MCJ students say they are continuing their dharna until their demand for Umeshchandra’s removal is fulfilled.  The outcome of the meeting of the Syndicate is now eagerly awaited by all, which is sure to give a new dimension to this imbroglio.  

Controversies have dogged the MCJ department time and again sullying its image mainly due to spat between students and lecturers.  Former students of the university, most of whom have joined various newspaper organizations do not have fond memories of their two years spent in the department, which speak volumes of the kind of atmosphere prevalent in the department.  The dwindling strength of the students (25 seniors and 18 juniors) clearly manifests the declining credibility of the department.  

The present controversy surrounds lecturer Umeshchandra, whom the students accuse of harassing them by abusing them and their parents and discriminating them on the basis of caste, race and religion.  It is not the first time the students have revolted against Umeshchndra.  They say ever since he joined the department in 2004 he has been an inseparable part of some controversy or the other involving students and last year it reached a deadlock when nine students brought a stay order from the High Court and answered the final examination when Umeshchandra refused them attendance.  The students got a morale booster when the judgment came in their favour as seven of the 9 students were allowed to answer the examination vindicating their stand.  

Crossing the Limits 

The protesting students both boys and girls are determined to continue with their agitation until they feel they get justice.  The entire senior batch except one and except 3 from junior batch all the students of MCJ are participating in the dharna.  The department has introduced payment seats since 2005 and there are many students who have joined the department paying as much as 42,000/- fees.  (Many of them say that the fees is much higher than the prevailing fee structure in some private colleges) Naturally they feel they are not getting the due from the department which is embroiled in pointless controversies. Agitating MCJ students speaking to daijiworld said lecturer Umeshachandra has crossed his limits of decency by badmouthing in the class.  Varsha Nayak, a senior student said “he abused not only us but our parents and the entire generation.  We have not come here to listen to his foul mouthing and discriminations.  Why should we put up with his machinations?”  

Ranjith K V, another agitating student also expresses similar sentiments.  “Umeshchandra always has this knack of kick starting his lectures abusing upper caste people.  He always asked us to raise our hands caste/religion wise.  Brahmins were his favourite whipping boys of abuses.  He openly used to say now it is our turn to teach lessons to upper caste people.  We had a precedent how had harassed our seniors last year for raising their voice against him”.  

The students say that Umeshachandra has been in an agitated mood ever since a report in a popular Kannada Daily accusing him of many misdeeds and he felt the involvement of students in giving out information to this paper.  He wanted the students to give it in writing denying all the allegations against him as alleged in the paper which the students say they refused.  Following this, the students say he has started harassing them by threatening to cut their attendance and refusing to evaluate their dissertation.  

New Twist 

Students say it is not just the students but even the former Vice Chancellor of University Prof Kaverappa and Heads of MCJ department Prof Nagaraj (now retired) and present Chairman G P Shivaram have been facing atrocities cases filed against them by Umeshchandra.  G P Shivaram agreed that he has been facing this case filed against him in 2007 by Umeshchandra.  “I have pinpointed certain lapses on his part including tampering of attendance register, unauthorized absence and dereliction of duty (absence during exam duty) and as directed by the University I have asked explanation.  He filed the case against me to cover up his misdeeds.  Now I have got a B report against this case and it continues”, he pointed out.  

Shivaram also said that Umeshchandra again failed to report for exam duty from 21st to 26th December and someone else had given the leave note to him.  He was again on unauthorized leave from 15th to 19th January 2010.  “As Chairman of the department I need to maintain certain discipline.  Unauthorized leave and dereliction of duty is a major offence.  Now that the students have taken to agitation boycotting the classes I am worried about their future and I hope an amicable solution is possible and the impasse is solved”.  

Lecturer Umeshhchandra, however, has given a new twist to the whole controversy by absolving the students and blaming the administration.  When contacted by daijiworld for his reaction he gave a clean chit to students saying “students are not the culprits.  Acting Vice Chancellor K K Achary, former VC Kaverappa, Prof K V Nagaraj, Vishweshwar Bhat, Registrar Chinnappa Gowda and Prof G P Shivaram have collaborated to instigate the students against me.  Whatever the students have accused me of is nothing but the conspiracy hatched by these people to malign me.  Students on their own will never resort to strike unless supported by University authorities”. 

Leadership Crisis?  

When contacted, Prof Nagaraj who retired from the department in September last year and is now in Assmm termed the entire fiasco as a “leadership crisis”. “It is a problem basically concerning the university.  I blame the whole system for this because if the problems were dealt with in the initial stages it would not have snowballed into such a big controversy.  Umeshchandra’s problem is a problem of communication”, Nagaraj asserted.   

It is indeed a paradox to accept it as a communication problem when the lecturer belongs to the department of communication.  But Prof Nagarj did agree that during his tenure as Chairman, students of MCJ had to go to court to bring a stay and answer the examination.  “I could not poke my nose when he failed to give attendance to students.  Students went to High Court and got the judgment in their favour.  When they came back the situation was dragging as the University did not take any action”.  

One can term it as inaction or sheer inaptitude or inherent system failure.  Former student of the department Balakrishna says “the students were undergoing some kind of turmoil within them for long.  Sadly it has come out in the form of a Frankenstein Monster of caste and religion.  The real cause of the present mess is something else and that needs to be addressed”.   

The agitation has all signs of taking an ugly turn as it has now acquired caste and religious implications.   But the agitating students are adamant that they want justice and caste/religion should not become an issue in the portals of education.  With both the students and the lecturer in question, taking a belligerent stand with accusations and counter accusations, it remains to be seen what decision the Syndicate is going to come up with.  But it cannot be denied that the department’s name is besmirched beyond repair.

by Florine Roche
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Comment on this article

  • Annonymous, Mangalagangotri

    Thu, Jan 28 2010

    Hi Raghavendra u r absolutely right. Immediately after releaving of Former Vice-chancellor Prof K M Kaveriyappa, these things all of a sudden appeared. Probably Former Vice-chancellor(very close to Umeshchandra) stand behind this to set a target, it is his in born trait...... Please remember, Dr. S. J. Sujatha, former student cum staff of Applied Botany Department commit suicide due to continuous harrassement and exploitation by Kaveriyappa as well by his own Ph. D. Students just because of her caste. But the same Dalit organization and Umeshchandra never raised even a single point but now they all doing these sorts of silly things by misusing the students mentality. But students became pray for this worst system!

  • A. N. D, kundapur

    Sun, Jan 24 2010

    whoever telling dat this fight is between sangh pariwaar and dalits plz cum to the students and u ll get the real things what we have faced from our lecturer and what we are facing now... we are not ready to be selfless by getting harassed for year..

  • Viswas Raj, Mangalore

    Sun, Jan 24 2010

    When B.R.Ambedkar drafted reservations in constitution I am sure he certainly did not envision how it is being misused today. This lecturer got his job because of reservation and not because of merit. This is what happens when non-deserving candidates are given job solely on their caste. Mangalore University just like other Govt institutions is collapsing because non deserving people become lecturers, administrators just because of reservations, not merit.

  • Ananda Kamat, Mangalore

    Sun, Jan 24 2010

    Gagan and Raghavendra are certainly not Umeshchandra's students. If they were they would not defend the indefencible. The inaction on the part of the university is entirely responsible for the present crisis. All misdeeds of Umeshchandra have been ignored by the University. An English lecturer was suspended by the university some years ago because he spoke against powerful industrial lobby and against destruction of our beautiful Dakshina Kannada. It is an irony that the univesity does not find enough grounds to suspend umeshchandra.

  • Kishorchandra U V , Karkala

    Sun, Jan 24 2010

    As Guru has rightly said Umeshchandra is caught in a tight spot and is now trying to come out of the problem by absolving students and putting the blame on the University administration. It is also true, as pointed out by Guru there are Dalit students who are participating in the agitation against Umesh. So is it not exploitation of dailits by Umesh who now now comes under the creamy layer. Moreover why should he doubt the students for the newspaper report if there is no truth in that. It is always the guilty mind that pricks. The students were right in not yielding to his pressure tactics. And now it has become a easy way out for all these people to point an accusing finger at Sangh Parivar to divert the real issue of Umeshchandra's high handedness, which should be dealt with severely. Those who want to scurry favour from Umesh are not in the agitation. Umesh is arrogant, male chauvinist and goes to any length to politicisize the issue. But 38 out of 43 itself is a good number to expose Umeshchandra.

  • Ananda Kamat, Mangalore

    Sun, Jan 24 2010

    Only those who want to protect Mr. Umeshchandra are talking about the caste. One can't be absolved of all the blame if he belongs to a particular caste. What people should see is that some of the protesting students include those who belong to Umeshchandra's caste. Umeshchandra was himself praising the BJP politicians at a programme at the town hall three yers ago because he wanted to fight against the teachers adhering to secular values in the University. What he is talking about is sheer opportunism. He just wants to save his skin in the name of caste.

  • Guru, Mangalore

    Sat, Jan 23 2010

    This is to Dalit Sangharsh Samiti and all those who say that this is happening because of the lecturer being a Dalit Do you know that amongst the students protesting there are four(4) Dalit students (thats the number of Dalits studying the department) also involved? Except for some miscreants who come to university to enjoy and pass without efforts everyone else is involved in the protest. Now it is left to your discrimination to provide a secure future for four talented Dalit students along with others or drag in all the politics including the religion and caste and prove a maniac lecturer as right.

  • Sachin, Dubai

    Sat, Jan 23 2010

    Hi Mr.Gagan I might be sitting here in dubai now, but i was there till last week and I have assesed the real situation there. Also to tell you my Sister is studying in same MCJ second year. Please go back to the old students and ask the reality. wheteher they had problems or not. Also to tell you even I am completely against this sangh parivar, and nobody is backing the students from Sangh Parivar.

  • Shalmala S, Mangalore

    Sat, Jan 23 2010

    I completely agree with you Mr Vinay. You have done a correct assessment of the things, as far as my knowledge is concerned. According to me, it is not "leadership crisis" in the varsity or the Department Ms Florine Roche has doubted. The entire scene is a result of the "attitude and personality crisis" of the accused lecturer.

    My sincere request to all those who brand the episode a "plot by Pariwar" or a "fight between the Dalits and the upper castes" that you please ask some of the girl students of the Department why they do not enter the lecturer's chamber when he is alone there. Sorry to mention this here. Thank you Daiji and Ms Florine for giving us a good analysis.

  • Vinay M , Mangalore/Udupi

    Sat, Jan 23 2010

    It is unfortunate that the entire episode involving MCJ students and lecturer has acquired political and caste colour the very issue against which the students were fighting. When 90 percent of the students are on strike one cannot say it is just the fight of dalits vs upper caste. Being a student of this university I was very well aware when a MCJ student, a friend of mine telling me how Umesh used to tell in the class that now it is the turn of dalits to take a revenge on upper castes.

    This has been told to me almost two years ago and despite this he has gone on and on for two years though the entire campus was aware of what was happening in that department. There cannot be smoke without fire. Moreover it is unfortunate Umeshchandra is trying to cloak his blunders by dragging retire Professor Nagaraj and retired V C Kaverappa. He has also directed his ire against Vishweshwara Bhat of Vijaya Karnataka just to give political colour to the entire episode.

    If the entire faculty from Vice Chancellor to Registrar is against Umeshchandra there must be something wrong with his way of dealing with the students in the class. It is unfortunate and sad that University campus is being used by self-centered people to achieve their narrow ends. Sadly other departments of the university are also bogged down by such episodes which i am sure will come out in the days to come

  • Ajith, Udupi

    Sat, Jan 23 2010

    Bharath Shetty is right. A section of the media also played a major role in tarnishing the image of M P Umeshchandra. Meanwhile media has provoked students to rebel against their own teacher.

  • Bharath Shetty, Karkala

    Sat, Jan 23 2010

    Gagu, Sachu and Raghu why you ppl are quarreling each other... ur business does'nt works here as students... there are EAGLE like MEDIA who eagerly waiting for the Breaking news to happen... in mangalore like harmony city... So please dont allow them to enter into the campus... to SUPORT U....

  • Lancelot N Tauro, Doha Qatar

    Sat, Jan 23 2010

    One thing I cannot digest about Upper caste and Lower Caste, BLOOD have no discrimination. Simlarly nature call is the same. Then why this type of issues? as in class all students are the same.

  • K.N. Lobo, mangalore

    Sat, Jan 23 2010

    A true portrait of the gloomy portrayal of the University with a Difference.Wish many investigative articles on this and other issues concerning Mangalore University. Speak any student there the tale is the same. In one department only 15 classes were taken in the entire Semester!! In another department alleged tampering of marks of one student was reported in media a few months back!! By the way hat the Syndicate members are doing? May be busy with organising Civic reception to the same leaders!!

  • Raghavendra B, Bangalore

    Sat, Jan 23 2010

    Mr Sachin, I am the student of Mr Umeshchandra. Sitting in Dubai, you think that, you know everything. He is teaching there since 2004. No student had any problem against him so far. Even upper caste students with broad minded support him, like him. The problem started all of sudden recently. The motive is very clear. As Gagan pointed out, Some external forces are working behind this protest. Please ask some students who are unwillingly participating in this protest.

  • Sachin, Dubai

    Sat, Jan 23 2010

    Mr.Gagan, Please go to any of the MCJ students. You will know what is the exact reason. Than give your comments, it's easy to say that its between sangh and dalits. But Its not. As the students who are protesting not from Sangh Parivar only the problem is the Lecturer have problems with upperclass. Also there are students from all casts who are protesting not only the said upperclass.

  • Gagan, Mangalore

    Sat, Jan 23 2010

    It is not leadership crisis. It's fight between Sangh Parivar and Dalits. Sangh Parivar found it difficult to digest his ideologies. So they targeted Umeshchandra systematically. Students are used as coins in this fight. Actually students are innocents. This conspiracy has been hatched by someone else from outside. Sad that, the dignity of MCJ department has been besmirched beyond repair.

  • H M Pernal, Mangalore

    Sat, Jan 23 2010

    Good Article Florine .

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