TISS Students Condemn Termination of Faculty & Hire/Fire policies of Admin

“We, the students of TISS, Mumbai strongly condemn the manner of suspension of faculty contracts by the TISS administration recently. On 24th March 2017, TISS issued a notice declaring the suspension of around 20 faculty members citing lack of funds from the University Grants Commission (UGC). These faculty members were associated with three centres which are funded by the UGC – Advanced Centre for Women’s Studies, Nodal centre of Excellence for Human Rights Education and the Centre for Study of Social Exclusion and Inclusive Policies. On 29th March 2017, UGC issued a notice extending the term of the existing 5 year plan schemes (under which these centres were funded hitherto) by 1 year. However, instead of withdrawing the letter dated 24th March and reinstating all the faculties as it is, TISS administration decided to set up a review committee to ‘find’ which faculty were ‘worthy’ of being reinstated. Around 19th of April 2017, after a long procedure, the students came to know that TISS had reinstated all, but one faculty for a term of 11 months. 

The only faculty to be removed after the review was Assistant Professor Murali Karnam, associated with (NCEHRE). He was employed under UGC and was one of the many who had been given information of termination of services “the letter” on 24th March. It is a fact that Prof. Murali has been removed for more than just 'administrative' reasons. He has not been given 1 month notice period. No communication of the purpose, guidelines and outcome of the Review Committe has been shared by TISS with anyone. As part of a series of exchanges with the administration, in a letter addressed to the SU on 22nd April, 2017, the Director told that two faculty members were removed on grounds of “poor performance” and also that the “institute had no obligation to consult the SU for administrative processes and advised to not take the matter further”. The other professor to be said to be removed is Ms. Anuradha who has been employed under Tata Trust post and has been served with 1 month notice period on 10th April, clearly much later than “the letter” and she was not reviewed because hers is not a UGC post
It needs to be remembered that such termination of contracts have taken place in past few years, when in a similar fashion other faculties like Sanober Keshwar, Monica Sakhrani, Bela Bhatia, Madhuri Xalxo etc were terminated from their positions without a notice period. The reasons for dismissal are not only ‘administrative’ as TISS suggests, but have very clear ‘political’ motivations. Many of these teachers have been known for their distinctive political proclivities and academic value. We are afraid that such unacceptable pattern is continued even in the recent termination of Professor Murali. In his case, the administration has justified his removal on the grounds of ‘poor performance’. Most of the students and faculty are aware of the fact that he had not been given any classes to teach or students to guide in the academic year 2016 – 17. On the other hand, he had actively participated, along with the students, in several fact findings and engaged with other political issues on and off campus. The LLM alumni and other students who were taught by him testify the academic rigour that Dr. Murali brought into the classroom. In presence of such evidence, it raises serious questions about the review process, on basis of which he has been terminated! The administration has not even tried to conceal its attempts to threaten the teachers (and students) of consequences for exercising the freedom of expression. The consequence of these threats – silencing the voices of teachers and students – are very much visible, which is undermining one’s right to hold diverse and plural views on public life. 
The corporate-like hire and fire policies are increasingly becoming a trend at TISS, Mumbai, where, in its curriculum, a critical viewpoint of such policies is discussed and debated on an everyday basis. While the TISS faculty finds itself in such an environment of high job insecurity and surveillance, the non-teaching staff is in an even more precarious situation. In recent interactions with the staff employed in the dining hall and canteen, it has come across that the staff are working in a worse condition. Many of them (especially the former) do not have even employee card or/and renewal of contract letter. The staff are not given decent wages for regular as well as overtime work that they put in and none of them have ever met their employer (a shady contract company by the name of KHFM, which, on paper, employs them). Even after being in the same work since as long as 10 years or more, none of them have access to medical insurance. The staff has also been threatened to stay silent on these issues or face the consequences, individually as well as collectively. The situation has not changed despite being taken up multiple times with the top-level administration of the institute.
It is needless to remind that TISS is a public institute and it needs to be governed according to principles of transparency, accountability and highest integrity befitting an educational apparatus. Hence we appeal to the institute that it is high time to restore the morale of the teachers and students alike through series of appropriate actions befitting an academic Institution. If dialogue and discussion between different sections cannot happen in an academic institution like TISS, it will lose its moral capacity to profess such values to the society at large. To begin with, the administration should withdraw its letters of March 24th to the teachers and hold a democratic conversation with all the sections of the Institute – teachers, students and non-teaching staff to build an atmosphere of mutual trust and respect so as to make everyone feel that they are equal, dignified and valuable partners of the Institute.
(The TISS Students Union)



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