As Board-Director Rift Widens, IIM Calcutta Issues Advert for Successor

The current director of the institute, Anju Seth, has been accused of "improper conduct", while she says that the board has overstepped its mandate.

New Delhi: As the controversy over the continuance of Anju Seth as the director of the Indian Institute of Management Calcutta (IIM-C) escalates, the institute’s board of governors has put out an advertisement inviting applications for Seth’s successor, Indian Express reports.

While Seth is expected to complete her term in February 2022, ideally the advertisement for a new director should have come nine months before her term ends, that is in June 2021. However, the early notification for her successor indicates the growing divide between Seth and the board of governors over the past several months on various matters pertaining to the institute.

Accusing Seth of “improper conduct”, the board has already clipped her powers from making any new appointments as the director and to initiate any disciplinary action.

Also read: Will IIM-A Director’s Act of Defiance Spur Others To Stand up for Academic Freedom?

The advertisement issued last week called for applications from distinguished academicians with a PhD or “equivalent having at least 15 years teaching or research experience” and they should have worked as a full-time professor at a reputed institution for at least seven years. It also sought applications from industry experts with at least 15 years of experience. The last date of applications is April 10, 2021.

“The individual is expected to provide strong academic leadership so that the institute is recognised for its excellence in management research and education; as a significant contributor to the nation-building effort’ and the making of policy at the National level,” Indian Express quoted advertisement as saying.

The controversy 

Seth was appointed as the first woman head of IIM-Calcutta in November 2018 and her term is expected to end in February 2022.

However, in December 2020, more than 75% of the faculty members from the institute had written to the Union ministry of education accusing Seth of centralising powers, and consequently, usurping their administrative and decision-making powers.

In response to this, Seth herself written to the ministry levelling allegations against the institute administration of sidelining her in drafting new regulations under the amended IIM Act, and divesting her of her executive powers.

She put the blame squarely on the chairman of the board of governors, Shrikrishna Kulkarni. In fact, her allegations of being sidelined are just as same as what she had been accused of by the administration. Also, it is unusual for a director of an IIM to send out a letter against her own institute’s chairman.

Among the issues flagged by the teachers earlier was faculty shortage. According to them, only one new faculty member had been hired in the last two years despite the institute losing over 10 teachers on account of resignation, superannuation and voluntary retirement. Some of the exits, the teachers alleged, were due to “harassment”.

On allegations levelled against her, Seth had dismissed them as the work of “a small group of individuals”, upset with her efforts to foster a culture of transparency and accountability, the Indian Express reports.

Meanwhile, the board has already sought a legal opinion on accusations made by Seth against the board of governors to ascertain if they are indeed overstepping their mandate, and to interpret the IIM Act rules in connection with the institute’s autonomy.