02 Dec 2020 18:59 IST

IIMC faculty shoot off letter to Ministry of Education seeking intervention

The letter raises concerns over the current Director’s leadership and calls it “discriminatory”

The IIM Calcutta Faculty Association (IIMCFA), which represents more than 75 per cent of the full-time faculty, has approached the Ministry of Education (MoE) expressing concerns over the “decline in the academic environment of IIMC, with faculty and staff shortages, and reduction in spending on research” in the institute.

In a letter addressed to the Secretary, MoE, a copy of which has been reviewed by BusinessLine, IIMCFA has sought the Ministry’s urgent intervention to help arrest the decline of the institute. “We, the faculty members of IIMC, wish to bring to your kind attention, and for the record of the MoE, certain grave concerns about the current state of affairs at our Institute and its implications for the future. These concerns have accumulated over the current Director’s tenure, the result of a style of functioning that is arbitrary, discriminatory, and, having a very narrow vision,” the letter said.

This is not the first time that concerns have been raised over the functioning of the institute. IIMC had earlier this year come under fire allegedly for ‘fundamental changes in the governance’ and its ‘inaction, inefficiency and opacity’ in the governance process.

Following this, the Board of Governors (BoG) had written to the alumni network allaying apprehensions and clarifying that the institute has been focusing on bringing in fundamental structural changes in processes, systems and academic design.

According to the letter, several attempts to reach out to the Director and the Board of Governors (Board), have been ignored or brushed aside with narratives of institutional change. The faculty association is further apprehensive that the Board is 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.

Decline in academic and research environment

The association has expressed concern over the “alarming decline” in the academic environment, with faculty and staff shortages, and reduction in spending on research The letter alleges only one additional faculty member has been recruited in the last two years, despite several resignations and retirements of faculty.

“The student-teacher ratio at IIM Calcutta has worsened significantly over the last two years. IIMC today has 20-30 full-time faculty members fewer than IIM Ahmedabad (IIMA) or IIM Bangalore (IIMB). It may be noted that IIMC has more students in its flagship two-year MBA programme, compared to both IIMA and IIMB,” the letter said.

Moreover, research funding has come down drastically and post-doctoral research fellowships have been discontinued. Internal funding for research projects and international conferences which are important to build and maintain 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 have been denied to faculty and students of IIMC,” it said. In violation of well-established institute rules, norms and practices, the Director has centralised substantial powers in her hands and bypassed or undermined due process.

“The Director, as the Chairperson of the Academic Council (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 letter said.

First Regulations

The letter further alleges that the formulation and adoption of the First Regulations has been an opaque and secretive process. Instead of inviting the AC to take the lead in drafting the regulations, as peer IIMs had done, there was a determined effort to keep it out of the process of formulating them (regulations). The BoG finally adopted the First Regulations, after inordinate delay in November this year.

The entire IIM Calcutta Faculty Association (IIMCFA) process was characterised by a general unwillingness to seek genuine engagement with the faculty, as illustrated by the following points, it said. This apart, the letter also talks about instances of “harassment and victimisation of faculty members” at the institute.

“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 and her vindictive attitude. Two deans, and some faculty members holding other administrative positions have sought to be relieved of their administrative responsibilities,” it said.