Published: 19th August 2023
Ashoka University row: Psychology, Media Studies departments support Sabyasachi Das
The departments have drafted statements asking the university to recognise academic freedom
After the Economics, English, Sociology, Anthropology and Political Science, the Departments of Psychology and Media Studies at Ashoka University have also extended their support to Assistant Professor Sabyasachi Das who gave his resignation. The departments have drafted statements asking the university to recognise academic freedom.
Das resigned after his paper suggesting voter manipulation in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections sparked a controversy. His resignation was immediately accepted by the university. Later, Professor Pulapre Balakrishnan also resigned in protest over the acceptance, as per a report by IANS.
Statement from Psychology faculty
“Department of Psychology expresses unwavering support and solidarity with Sabyasachi Das and Pulapre Balakrishnan from the Economics Department and they should be offered their positions back unconditionally, with a clear commitment to upholding their academic freedom and autonomy. We pledge our unequivocal support for the demands and plan of action put forward by the Economics Department in their resolution,” reads their statement.
“We ask that the university recognise the Academic Freedom Committee as the body to implement transparent and accessible institutional safeguards for faculty, staff or research assistants in these situations. We are extremely distressed by the precedent that these current and past resignations set for academic censorship and research productivity, especially given that these faculty members have not violated any aspect of common academic practice or university policy," it adds.
“It is particularly vital for us to not capitulate to the powers that try to suppress academic freedom so that we can continue to teach our students to think critically in classrooms without a sense of pretence. We cannot do our jobs as teachers and researchers without clear protections for academic freedom,” the Psychology Department said.
Media Studies said...
Meanwhile, the Media Studies Department, in another statement, mentioned, “We stand with all our colleagues in the unanimous asking professors Sabyasachi Das and Pulapre Balakrishnan to remain as Ashoka Faculty, without delay. Recent events have once again brought up the need to create and ensure a functioning firewall between Ashoka University's Faculty and its founders/governing body, on the protection of academic freedom and expression. This must now be a priority.”
“Concrete suggestions on how to go about creating a secure space that allows free expression to flourish in academia have been made by several of our colleagues. We fully endorse the efforts to create institutional safeguards to protect academic freedoms to read, write, say and publish to rigorous standards, without fear of extreme institutional backlash,” it added.
“Our department, as a collective of diverse practitioners in the media space, is well aware of both the realities and perceptions of pressure on free expression in our digitally mediated, social media-driven information landscape. We are firmly of the view that a consultative approach involving the faculty in dealing with such pressures, is the only way forward," it said further.
Notably, as many as 288 economists from over 81 institutions across the country have extended their support to Das, urging the varsity to immediately reinstate him, as per IANS.