Published: 11th December 2020
IIM Calcutta faculty write to MoE against director, claim harassment, decline in research quality, funding
A few faculty members have formally lodged harassment complaints against the Director, which have been pending for months, with no redressal, the staff claimed
IIM Calcutta’s faculty has come together to raise their dissatisfaction with the functioning of the campus under the current director. The IIM Calcutta Faculty Association (IIMCFA) has written to the Ministry of Education demanding their intervention in the matter. They claim that only one additional faculty member has been recruited in the last two years, despite several resignations and retirements. According to the faculty there has been a steep decline in research funding and they are worried that there is centralisation of power in the hands of the Director, Prof Anju Seth.
The Association states in their letter that they have reached out to the Director and the Board of Governors several times with their concerns but they had been brushed aside. “Over the last two years there have been at least eight resignations from among regular and contractual non-teaching staff members, most of whom have not been replaced. This has adversely affected the quality of teaching and research. The general morale of the faculty and staff of the Institute is at an all-time low,” the staff wrote. The faculty also claim harassment, “It may be noted that just in the last two months two faculty members (including a foreign national) have resigned, citing harassment by the Director. Two Deans and some faculty members holding other administrative positions have sought to be relieved of their administrative responsibilities. The Director has been unwilling to accept resignations and relieve colleagues from their administrative responsibilities, compelling them to work under duress, even when they sought relief on serious medical grounds. A few faculty members have formally lodged harassment complaints against the Director, which have been pending for months, with no redressal.” The faculty claim there is selective targeting instead of redressal.
In the letter, the Association states that routine requests for approval of employees' entitlements and rights such as casual leave, voluntary retirement, retirement benefits have been denied, delayed or arbitrarily decided upon. Even other basic academics like faculty participation and other events which do not involve financial considerations have been denied, the faculty said. Their demands for a grievance redressal mechanism have also gone unanswered, the teachers allege.
The Association claims that there has been an alarming decline in the quality of academics in the institute, “Research funding has come down drastically and post-doctoral research fellowships have been discontinued. Internal funding for research projects and international conferences, so important to building and maintaining research networks, are discouraged to augment the annual surplus; externally-funded research projects have often been actively discouraged or their approval arbitrarily delayed. Even minimal teaching support, such as teaching assistants, digital infrastructure for online teaching during the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown etc, have been denied to faculty and students of IIMC.”
The faculty from the Institute state in their letter that the Director has centralised substantial powers in her hands and bypassed or undermined due process particularly with regard to the interpretation of the IIM Act of 2017. The Academic Council has been undermined both in powers and functions in comparison to the Director and the Board, “The Director, as the Chairperson of the AC, unilaterally sets the agenda, dictates decisions, and controls the minutes, disregarding the views of the overwhelming majority of the members of the AC. Consequently, minutes take longer to be ratified and do not truly reflect the discussion or decisions in the AC. The AC’s remit is being narrowed, as it is bypassed even in matters critical to the academic activities of the Institute, with the excuse that the said matter is not ‘purely’ academic, but has financial, administrative, or technological aspects. Contrary to earlier practice, the AC is also now denied any role in the nominations to academic administrative positions in the Institute.”
The IIMCFA also feels that the Board retaining its power to lay down the criteria for and grant honorary degrees, honorary awards and other distinctions, award of fellowships, scholarships, medals, and prizes to meritorious students in academic programmes is a clear departure from existing well accepted practices and the spirit of the IIM Act. “The Director is unilaterally and arbitrarily shortlisting candidates for faculty positions at IIMC. We have reason to believe that not all applications for faculty positions are being forwarded to the concerned academic groups for their consideration,” the faculty said.
“AC members were allowed merely five days to submit their individual views on a draft of the regulations, circulated by the Director. The Director was unable to clearly state the authorship of the document. The Director refused to acknowledge the AC’s right to offer a collective view on the draft regulations and insisted that faculty members can only submit their views in their individual capacities,” the IIMCFA said.
The Association, in their letter, say there is an attempt to initiate a new process as part of the ‘First Regulations’ adopted by the Board which has not been shared with the faculty, “Since 1974, the IIMC Board has always entrusted the Faculty Council (current Academic Council) with the task of selecting the two Faculty nominees to the Board through election. The current vacancies were to be filled by November 3, 2020 as per the current rules and established practices, and we had brought the same to the notice of the Board. Unfortunately, this well-established democratic norm has been overlooked without reason and an attempt is underway to choose the Faculty members on the Board ignoring extant rules.”
Requesting the Ministry to take immediate cognizance of the issue, the faculty in their letter said they dear their freedom of expression is in danger, “Though we have reached out several times to the Director and our Board of Governors, our concerns have been ignored or brushed aside with narratives of institutional change, which is supposedly underway, but not apparent to us. Further, we have reasons to believe that the Board is also contemplating imposition of restrictions on the freedom of expression of faculty, specifically in the context of raising issues related to larger academic concerns and administrative lapses in the Institute.”
“We fear that unless there is an effective intervention from the Ministry of Education, IIM Calcutta will see a drastic decline in its academic capabilities and lose its hard-earned global reputation,” said Ashok Banerjee, secretary of the IIMCFA, said while stating that the association represents more than 75 percent of the full-time faculty of IIM Calcutta. Banerjee added though that he has full faith that the Ministry will address the issues they've raised.
We have reached out to the Director for a comment and will update the copy when we receive it.