Jaffna Uni action contrary to law: University Services Appeals Board rulesView(s):
The decision by the University of Jaffna to issue a “severe warning” to a senior academic for complaining to the University Grants Commission (UGC) regarding alleged irregularities in the process of promoting another academic to the post of Professor was contrary to law and should be withdrawn, the University Services Appeals Board (USAB) ruled.
The USAB’s order came following a hearing into an appeal filed by Dr M Sarvananthan of the Jaffna University’s Department of Economics challenging the merit promotion of Prof S Santhirasegaram to the post of Professor in Economics at the University.
Dr Sarvananthan had alleged there were irregularities in the promotion process of Prof Santhirasegaram to Professor in Economics. The allegations against the appointment of Prof Santhirasegaram to the post revolves around several issues including plagiarism, publications in “predatory Journals” (journals that charge authors for publishing without providing peer-review or editing services) and appointment of an external expert/assessor who is not qualified to evaluate the submitted material and who is incapable of evaluating material published in the Tamil language.
Counsel for the respondents told the USAB during the inquiry that translated detailed summary of the publications were provided to the assessor for evaluation. “If the assessor is not conversant with the language of a publication and is provided a “summary” translation of such publication for assessment in, there is an obvious flaw in the process,” the Board noted.
The USAB further noted that submission of detailed summary of translated publications for evaluation is not permitted in terms of the relevant UGC Circulars.
“The appointment of an assessor who is not conversant in Tamil language when the publications he was required to evaluate included those published in the Tamil language is a matter of concern. The whole object behind an appointment of an assessor to evaluate the publications is defeated when such assessor does not understand the language in which some of the articles/publications to be assessed were published,” the Board emphasised.
The Appeals Board noted that it is not qualified to assess whether there is plagiarism. Such an assessment should be done by a subject expert. Similarly, the allegations relating to publications in predatory journals should be inquired by a subject expert, and the USAB will not make any conclusion on the matter, it added.
The University also issued a “severe warning” against Dr Sarvananthan over his complaint to the Chairperson of the UGC regarding alleged irregularities in the promotion of Prof Santhirasegaram. This warning had been issued without calling for any explanation from him. “The decision to issue severe warning against the appellant even prior to calling for any explanation from the appellant is contrary to law,” asserted the USAB. In other words, the appellant had not been heard in defence prior to the issuance of the severe warning. This is a breach of the rules of natural justice, the Board further stressed. As such, it held that the decision to issue a severe warning to the appellant is contrary to law and should be withdrawn.
The Board further recommended that the UGC appoint a screening committee of a minimum of two subject experts conversant in the Tamil language, with at least one member competent to identify predatory journals. The mandate and main task of the screening committee shall be to check whether each publication submitted for the promotion to the post of Professor in Economics, is genuine and authentic, is free of plagiarism, is not published in a predatory journal or by a predatory publisher, and is published in a reputed journal or by a reputed publisher and to provide a report to the UGC and to the Council of the University of Jaffna on the results of such investigation and their recommendations thereon.
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