On Rohith Vemula’s fourth death anniversary, an open letter addressed to Professor Errol D’souza, Director of IIM Ahmedabad, questions why the business school remains the only IIM to not have implemented reservations in its PhD programmes.
The authors of the letter are Deepak Malghan, an Associate Professor at IIM Bangalore, and Siddharth Joshi, a Fellow of IIM Bangalore.
"“On this solemn day, we urge you to make immediate amends in the admissions to your PhD programme. IIM-A as a public institution has a constitutional obligation to remedy centuries of acute inequity in access to knowledge. Stop defending the wall of exclusion that Rohith fought hard to breach.”" - Siddharth Joshi and Deepak Malghan
‘The Time to Act Is Now’
The following is the full text of the open letter:
Dear Prof. D'Souza,
As you know the tragic death of Rohith Vemula four years ago brought into sharp focus the continuing exclusion of India’s marginalized communities from higher education.
The enlightened alumni of Indian Institutes of Management (including several dozens from IIMA), inspired by Rohith's sacrifice vowed to shine the spotlight on structures of exclusion at their own alma mater.
For four years now, our alums and students have been reminding us that IIMs have possibly the most unrepresentative faculty body across all major institutions in the country. I attach below the faculty social composition at IIMs as of December 2019 (this is self-reported data by various IIMs, obtained under RTI). You will agree with me that the current faculty composition at IIMs is consistent with those produced by the erstwhile apartheid regime in South Africa.
As we have pointed out in our many articles, this acute faculty diversity deficit is a direct result of accumulated sins of both omission and commission. For too long, and in direct abrogation of their implicit social contract as public institutions, IIMs have tried to hide behind the facade of "we do not discriminate, but there are not enough qualified candidates from historically marginalized groups."
This is at best an indefensible excuse that betrays entrenched privilege – over 90% of IIM faculty members are drawn from less than 10% of Indian society.
Like major universities around the world, IIMs are both "producers" and "consumers" of faculty talent. Anecdotal evidence suggests that across twenty IIMs, over 40% of the currently faculty members were trained within the IIM system.
We have an apartheid like outcome because we have used every trick in the book to evade reservations in our PhD programs. How can we complain of a skewed talent pool when the plurality of faculty members within the IIM system have been trained in our own institutions, and we have been so unimaginative with our graduate programs.
Recognizing that our long years of neglect (wilful or otherwise) of diversity and inclusion questions in the PhD programme the nursery where future faculty colleagues are forged – all IIMs except IIM Ahmedabad have taken ameliorative steps by implementing reservations in their respective PhD programmes.
On this solemn day, we urge you to make immediate amends in the admissions to your PhD programme. IIMA as a public institution has a constitutional obligation to remedy centuries of acute inequity in access to knowledge.
The time to act is now. Stop defending the wall of exclusion that Rohith fought hard to breach.
This is a moment to embrace the plain truth that IIMA (like other IIMs) is guilty of defending the indefensible. It is simply unconscionable that IIMA continues to defy an obvious moral imperative as well as a constitutional mandate.
It is about time IIMA listened to its own alumni and students who have for long pointed out the hollowness and nakedness underlying the emperor's faux-defense of anachronistic exclusionary practices.
We urge you to make a new beginning this 17 January, and dress yourself up with the enduring wisdom of Rohith's stardust.
With warm regards,
Siddharth Joshi (Fellow, IIM Bangalore)
Deepak Malghan (Associate Professor, IIM Bangalore)
(Note: The data shown in the table on ‘Distribution of faculty across all IIMs’ has been enclosed by Deepak Malghan and Siddharth Joshi in their open letter. According to their letter, this data is self-reported by various IIMs and has been obtained under RTI.)
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