Careers of more than 100 TISS employees at stake, letter to Union min seeks redressal

The staff dismissed were told that lack of grants from the Tata Education Trust (TET) to pay for their salaries caused the issue.
Careers of more than 100 TISS employees at stake, letter to Union min seeks redressal
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A letter addressed to Union Education Minister Dharmendra Pradan signed by 466 faculty members, academics and prominent intellectuals has sought to address the precarious nature of employment affecting the faculty and staff at the four campuses at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS).

More than 100 faculty members and administrative staff from at the Mumbai, Guwahati, Tuljapur and Hyderabad campuses of TISS were dismissed on June 28 with a mere two days notice. While a second letter, dated Wednesday, July 5, extended their services until December 31, 2024, job security is still a problem. According to the termination letter accessed by TNM, either the faculty accept their termination right away or sign the extension letter post which they will be dismissed on December 31.

The staff dismissed were initially told that lack of grants from the Tata Education Trust (TET) to pay for their salaries caused the issue. The TET has however assured that resources would be made available to the four campuses and people needn’t be dismissed. However, TISS academics TNM spoke to dub the meagre extension of six months as ‘exploitative’ as several of them have worked at various TISS campuses for over a decade.

“The TISS administration has not provided any indication on the nature of reinstatement including basic terms and conditions, and the duration of employment. This has left the careers and livelihoods of these more than 100 individuals completely vulnerable,” the letter to Union Minister Pradhan noted.

Like a few other eminent institutes, TISS receives 50% of its funds from the Union government. Because of a change in the University Grants Commission’s (UGC) regulations in 2023, the appointment of TISS director is now the prerogative of the Union government?

Speaking to TNM, an academician at TISS said several people who risk being laid off were part of protests and demonstrations against the university administration. “Students from marginalised communities along with select faculty have protested against removal of the bachelors courses, shutting down of hostels and cancellation of student aid. Most of the staff were dismissed because of such protests,” she said.

There were several instances where Dalit, Adivasi and Left academicians and activists were disallowed from speaking on campus and often threatened with police action. “The dismissal was also carried out over a weekend when the University remained shut. Some campuses were still on vacation and hadn’t reopened so everyone was left in the dark as to what was happening,” she added.

The faculty and staff, who received support from the civil society, remarked that they never faced such a problem before. “Every year our employment was extended by another year and the extension letter carries our date of joining. The termination and extension letter doesn’t have our date of joining and further identifies us as project staff instead of faculty of TISS. We served as assistant professors and carried out all responsibilities in that capacity. We had nothing to do with those projects and were only partly funded by them,” another assistant professor told TNM.

Assistant professors facing layoff are being viewed as employees who work from project to project and not as faculty who have worked for a continuous period of time at TISS. As per the termination letter, they should either quit now or if they stay on, their services would come to an end by December 31.

The solidarity letter said the Advance Centre for Women’s Studies also faced a similar issue. Three faculty members and one staff member of the centre have not received the extension offer and still stand terminated.

“The MA Women’s Studies at TISS Hyderabad will cease to exist from the 2025 academic year. This itself is a big blow to women’s studies. For the past four months, three faculty and one staff member at the Advanced Centre for Women’s Studies haven't been paid and don’t have a job going forward,” said an academician.

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