The Independent Student Newspaper of Ashoka University

Founders’ Firewall – Ashoka’s Very Own Schrödinger’s Cat

by Aggam Walia

Responding to a student who participated in the email spam on Tuesday, Sanjeev Bikhchandani wrote that “Founders have nothing to do with day to day operations of the university.” He added that there is now a firewall in place between the Founders and the students and faculty as a result of the protests following Professor PB Mehta’s resignation. He called the email spam a violation of this firewall as an email campaign is not an appropriate channel for communication. “It is not like Schrödinger’s Cat – it cannot exist and not exist depending on convenience,” the mail reads. In an email response to The Edict, Ashish Dhawan also clarified that Founders do not participate in the day to day activities of Ashoka, and get involved only when “requested by the administration.” 

Earlier this year, the Vice Chancellor in a meeting with the Student Government very clearly stated that the question of Ashoka hiring directly or through third-party contractors can only be decided by the Governing Board. The Governing Board has four Founders, including Mr. Dhawan. If there is indeed a firewall between the Founders and the rest of the university, and when Founders maintain that they do not participate in day-to-day operations, why do some Founders continue to serve on the Governing Board? Building on Mr. Bikhchandani’s reference to Schrödinger’s Cat, it is the Founders who are present and absent at the same time, depending on convenience. 

The need for a firewall emerged from the nature of the events leading up to Prof. Mehta’s resignation. It seeks to address an inherently capricious relationship between private capital and administrative influence. However, the student body has not been intimated regarding the existence of such a firewall. How exactly does it function? What are the appropriate channels or forums Mr. Bikhchandani refers to? It is unsettling that such an important mechanism was established but no information on it was communicated to the student body. 

The Founders’ contradictory relationship with Ashoka is not only important as far as the firewall is concerned, but it also begs the question of who is in-charge of running this university? The students have valid concerns but who can they expect to address them? The administration has washed its hands off and attempted to direct students to the Governing Body. However, some members of the Governing Body claim that the issue lies outside of their influence. This manufactured administrative confusion cannot be an excuse to brush student grievances under the carpet. It only weakens whatever faith the Ashokan community has in due process. 

The Founders first articulated the vision for Ashoka, a vision many of us put our faith in. They passed the baton on to the administration, which is supposed to implement that vision faithfully. The path ahead can either be that of sheer negligence or one that reaffirms that vision. 

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