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IIMs Sought Exemption from Faculty Quota as Reservation a 'Non-academic Factor', Reveals Letter to Ministry

File photo of IIM Bangalore.

File photo of IIM Bangalore.

The letter, signed by Three IIM directors, has explained their reasons seeking the exemption, thus, revealing “their prejudices of how reservations work,” said an activist.

Three directors of the Indian Institute of Management (IIMs) had last year sponsored a petition to the Ministry of Education seeking exemption from the Central Educational Institutions (Reservation in Teachers’ Cadre) Act, 2019. The heads of the institutes viewed the Act as not suitable for ‘specialised domain knowledge’ and a ‘non-academic factor’ among other things.

News18 has accessed the letter wherein the directors of the premier institutes have explained why they sought and thus, revealing “their prejudices of how reservations work,” said an activist.

IIM-Bangalore had sought the exemption under the past director G Raghuram along with IIM Amritsar Nagarajan head Ramamoorthy and IIM’s Ahmedabad director Errol D’Souza in 2019.

Contents of the Letter

Addressed to the Union Minister of Education regarding the Central Educational Institutions (Reservation in Teachers’ Cadre) Act, 2019, the signatories cited several reasons seeking exemption from faculty quota.

“It is worthy of highlighting that faculty at the IIMs who come from disadvantaged backgrounds have implicitly or explicitly expressed their reluctance to be identified as having come from such milieus, true to the spirit of being able to relate to each other as equals, as is the healthy practise in any institutions of high repute in the world,” the letter read.

“We recognise the argument that there are widespread beliefs about the inferiority of members of certain groups in society and this leads to their being excluded from positions of expertise and authority. Hence, a way of tackling discrimination is to place individuals from excluded groups into such positions so that they can be seen to perform as well as anyone else.”

The letter further said, “There is no procedural unfairness in going down this route for faculty positions subject to the important caveat that any loss in the promotion of the other aims of the institutions that hosts faculty positions on such a basis is justified.”

The directors also brought up the issue of reservations as a non-academic factor that would defeat the goal of specialisation and new research. “An important institutional aim of IIMs is the flexibility to scale and respond to changing specializations and newer areas of research. Academic institutions compete on their ability to recognize new areas of specialization and to attract persons with that expert knowledge so as to have first mover advantages and be able to contribute to national development goals. This ability would get sacrificed if non-academic factors were to be the basis when listing or recruiting for faculty positions.”

The signatories believe that reservations do not suit specialised domain knowledge. “Preparing an approved list of positions and announcing a sanctioned strength of vacancies best works for routine jobs that are unlikely to become obsolescent and that do not require highly specific and specialized domain knowledge. Faculty positions at IIMs constitute a high performance workplace which places a higher marginal value on the ability to be competent, flexible and agile in a world where skills are transforming at a rapid pace so that the institution, as a going concern, continues to be relevant to the needs of society and stakeholders,” the petition said.

The directors sought a “kind and favourable consideration,” to be included in the exempted list and cited the examples of “Tata Memorial Centre, Mumbai, and the Institute of Mathematical Sciences, Chennai,” as it is believed that it is on such grounds that institutions such as TMC and IMS “amongst others are exempted from the central Educational Institutions (Reservations in Teachers’ Cadre) Act 2019, as per the schedule referred to in clause (a) of sub-section (1) of the Section 4 of the Act.”

Further, the letter said, “IIM Act 2017 empowers the IIMs to attain standards of global excellence in management, management research and allied areas of knowledge and, hence, it is imperative that IIMs as institutions of national importance function according to norms of ‘procedural fairness’ (a recognition of the multiple goals and their trade-offs be taken into account to make the institution sustainable and to contribute to stakeholders), and substantive opportunity (that academic and research work at is best allocated according to abilities and the individuals in the institution relate to each other as equals so as to maximize the likelihood of ensuring productive generation and dissemination of knowledge in classrooms as well as outside).”

“Hence, it is requested that the Indian Institute of Management be also included in the exempted list in the Schedule referred to, in clause (a) of sub-section (1) of Section 4 of the above cited Act 2019 as unlike other academic institutions in the country, they are ranked in the top 100 in the world rankings for this category of institutions,” petitioned the signatories.

‘Not Correct Stand on Reservations’

As the contents of the letter became public, IIM Bangalore faculty member Deepak Malghan said several IIM alumni have over the last few years highlighted the acute lack of social diversity in the IIM faculty body and it is due to their efforts that the government had clarified that ‘IIMs as public institutions must follow statutory norms under the Central Universities Act’.

After the perusal of the content of the letter, he said that he is “most disappointed” especially because IIM B where he works is one of the primary sponsors. “IIM B joining this letter calls into question our fidelity to questions of diversity and inclusion. The letter also betrays a lot of prejudices about how reservation works.”

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