ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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​The JNU Way

A former student on what makes Jawaharlal Nehru University a formidable place of learning, both inside the classroom and outside.

[The author would like to thank Tanishka Kachru, Sreeparna Chattopadhyay, and Navdeep Mathur for their views on an earlier draft of this article.]

I was recently taking classes at a premiere institution when a young doctoral student asked hesitantly if she may join the session even though she wasn’t “officially” registered for the course. When my colleague at the host institution and I responded that she was welcome, we were both profusely thanked for our “generosity” in allowing her to attend the class. Somewhat bemused, I asked my colleague, a fellow Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) alumnus, if such formal “thank yous” were expected at his institute. He replied that they weren’t. If it isn’t institutional policy, we pondered afterwards, is this belief that the classroom is a reified space to be entered with such ceremony a sign of the times?

Completing our master’s degrees in the 1990s at JNU, we had both shared a somewhat different postgraduate experience from the young scholar who sought our permission. We often audited courses in which we were not registered. Sometimes we did so diligently by attending classes for an entire semester. But, more often, we wandered into classrooms out of curiosity, because we’d heard that the professor was a particularly good orator, or that the subject of that day’s discussion was a topical one, or to “hang out” with friends who were taking the course because we felt like it. For the most part, new entrants introduced themselves to professors, though I recall occasions when (with youthful disregard for good manners) I gatecrashed a class. I do not recall a single instance of professors barring anyone from entering. Classroom doors were, both literally and figuratively, open.

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Updated On : 20th Aug, 2018
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