How Family & Academic Life Dwindle for Women Ad Hoc Faculty at DU

With the highly uncertain nature of their job, female ad hoc faculty find it incredibly difficult to balance their work and family pressures. This problem is exacerbated in the cases where the family is not very encouraging of them pursuing a career. This, Maya John notes, is already having an effect on the upcoming crop of graduates.

"“Every year the number of students who are disillusioned with the prospects of a career in academics is on the rise. This will have drastic effect on education at large.”" - Maya John, Assistant Professor, History Department, Jesus and Mary College

Devika* talks about the impact that the precarious nature of her job has on her personal life.

"“When you’re employed as an ad hoc faculty, the anxiety with respect to family planning is really high. My husband worked as an ad hoc faculty too and was forced to shift to the US to carry on with academics there. When you have no employment security, you cannot expect your family life to be stable.”"

Also Read: Here’s a Look at Struggles of DU’s Women Ad Hoc Faculty

Family Planning

Devika’s problems, like those of other female ad hocs, were made worse by the fact that ad hocs are not usually granted maternity leaves. The Maternity Benefit Act provides for maternity leaves to all women employees. The definition of a woman employee under the act does not involve any wage ceiling and extends the benefits to women working under a contractual basis as well.

While Maternity benefits do exist on paper for ad hoc faculty, colleges are notorious for not providing them.

"“As women it is important to have maternity leave. We were very close to clinching maternity leave of one month in AC meeting which was held in January 2019 after a gap of more than a year. The EC meeting which is the higher body was adjourned after the VC thought the discussions were going nowhere.”" - Maya John, Assistant Professor, History Department, Jesus and Mary College

The Maternity Benefit (Amendment) Act 2017 also makes it mandatory for any organisation employing 50 or more women employees to provide crèche facility and permit the employee to visit the crèche four times during the day, including the regular rest interval. As confirmed by many faculty members, such provisions are not made available.

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Besides maternity, other aspects of their lives are deeply impacted, too. Namrata* recollects with deep anguish:

" “I was undergoing a divorce some years back. I worked as an ad hoc in one of the colleges at Delhi University. In order to be present for legal proceedings, I needed some days off. It was very disheartening to find out that the permanent faculty who move around with the banner of radical feminism did not support me during that time. As a contractual employee, I had to constantly live in the fear of losing my job. The senior teachers were ruthless and I faced harassment because I sometimes had to let go of my work to set my personal life straight.”"

The precarious nature of the work further complicates the lives of not just the ad hoc faculty but those who depend upon them as well. Namrata lived with her mother while she was in Delhi. She has a sister who is married. Namrata had been her mother’s companion and care-provider for many years. With the bleak prospects in Delhi and the need to dive extensively into research, she chose to pursue her academic career abroad.

However, without a care-provider around, her mother had to shift with her sister. Namrata might have made a successful shift away from the ‘nightmarish life’ of an ad hoc, however, she says the concern of her mother looms large in her thoughts.

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Harassment at Workplace

The ad hocs in Delhi University have constantly been complaining about their harassment at the workplace by senior permanent teachers, which works in myriad forms. Sanjana*, who has been an ad hoc since seven years, says,

"“This included increased work hours that aren’t defined on paper, to being given leftover texts, which are outside their area of specialisation, to teach to students of other departments as interdisciplinary papers. The denial of freedom of choice and expression comes from the very system that ensures that ad hoc employments place the employee at a lower hierarchical position vis-a-vis the permanent faculty that, by virtue of its employment status, holds an upper hand in decision-making at the departmental level, be it the allocation of texts to teachers or the appointment of ad hoc faculty.” "

Ad hoc faculty generally face the additional burden of taking up non-academic activities including meetings, extra co-curricular activities, and the like. These additional managerial responsibilities hinder the faculty from taking up research and writing projects. This further deteriorates their condition as academic appointments require research papers. Losing out on crucial working hours under the fear of not being renewed thus effectively curbs the eligibility of an ad hoc to look for better prospects in academia.

Sanjana, an ad hoc who has been able to publish only one paper in a whole year, tells us:

"“For humanities as a discipline, it is not flourishing anywhere. So publish or perish is how it works. The number of papers and their quality decides your career. And with the ad hoc work schedule, the unaccounted for overtime that we give, there’s hardly any time left for us to research and come out with academic papers.” "

Sanjana details her account –

“I am an English literature teacher. I wasn't given any English honours classes. I was told I had a lecture with Commerce students but not informed about what text to teach. So I left early. Later, I was asked by the head of the commerce department to give attendance to students who were not present in class while I was there. I told my teacher-in-charge and she took it up with the other head. There was a shouting match in the staff room wherein the Commerce Department HoD kept repeating that she would get me thrown out and prove I wasn't taking classes. The students, on behest of her, wrote to the principal complaining about me. Nothing happened of it, but imagine how it affects the mental state and the performance of an ad hoc.”

(Names have been changed)

(This is the second in the three part series on everyday struggles of women ad hocs in Delhi University. You can read part 1 here.)

(The authors are students of journalism at IIMC, New Delhi. All 'My Report' branded stories are submitted by citizen journalists to The Quint. Though The Quint inquires into the claims/allegations from all parties before publishing, the report and the views expressed above are the citizen journalist's own. The Quint neither endorses, nor is responsible for the same.)

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