Rajendra Prasad, principal of Ramjas College, Delhi University, speaks to The Sunday Guardian, as the college celebrates its centenary year.
Q: What is your core philosophy regarding an institution of higher learning? How have you influenced the ethos of Ramjas?
A: I believe universities must work in synchronicity with society. University is a place where we confront ideas and not people. I have never opposed ideas; I have challenged ideas with ideas, discussions with engagement, and disagreements with reason and challenges with optimism. I allowed diverse ideas to thrive simultaneously.
Q: Ramjas has led the Delhi University’s UNESCO chapter for many years. Could you specify outreach programmes that you initiated through the students here?
A: Ramjas supports various outreach programmes through its NSS wing and other student bodies. One initiative I am particularly proud of is the social entrepreneurship work the Ramjas Chapter of Enactus has done for the transgender community. It has economically empowered them so that they discontinue their often-undignified modes of sustenance.
Q: You were a part of the Raghavan Committee appointed by the Supreme Court to curb ragging in universities. How was your experience?
A: I worked on expanding the definition of ragging to include offences against ethnic minorities and transgenders, and so on. By defining the nuances of power relations among different groups within a community, we created a watertight position on ragging and institutionalised and formalised the response to acts of ragging. Authorities could not any longer exercise discretion in determining what constituted how much ragging, or if indeed there had been a case of ragging.
Q: What are your views on the use of digital technology in education? Has Ramjas implemented such technology?
A: Technology is a facilitator, not an end in itself. We were among the first to set up digitised classrooms, AV media rooms, etc. Ten years ago, we started a mini ERP customised software to do our administration work. We have SMS facilities embedded in the system for instant information updates, like the shift in venue of an announced seminar, etc. We’re soon launching our SIS (Student Information System) platform as an application on both Android and iOS platforms.
Q: How has Ramjas College contributed to gender equality?
A: Ramjas is an equal opportunity college. Ramjas created the first co-educational hostel in the university in 2005. We worked to carve half the space away from the existing men’s hostel to create 80 seats for female students. From 50 female students in 1985, we now have 3,000 female students.
Q: What is the biggest challenge before higher education today?
A: The biggest challenge is that we are becoming knowledge consumers and not knowledge producers. We need to focus more on research work. Our lack of focus on research is the reason why we are not ranked amongst the top universities of the world.