Remember the stories of Ramayana and Mahabharata? There was always a mention of the sacred guru-shishya (teacher-student) bond. Unfortunately, in those times, the transaction of knowledge was only reserved for people of a certain class and caste. Thankfully, we don’t live in that kind of world anymore. Or do we? While, the number of ST, SC and OBC students is slowly rising in institutes of higher education, the case is not the same for faculty and scholars. In a working paper co-written by Siddharth Joshi (Doctoral Student, IIM B) and Deepak Malghan (Associate Professor, IIM B) titled - Missing Scholars: Social Exclusion at the Indian Institutes of Management, it was found out that, “As of January 2018, of the 642 faculty members across the 13 IIMs, 4 were from the Scheduled Caste (SC) and 1 from the Schedule Tribe (ST) categories.” This report comes as a shock since SCs/STs represent more than a quarter of the country’s population!
The following are a few statistics which will tell you how grave the situation is -
Table: No. of Faculty in 13 IIMs as per 2017 (Category Wise)
|IIM, Calcutta (1961)||0||0||83||83|
|IIM, Ahmedabad (1961)||0||0||96||96|
|IIM, Bangalore (1973)||0||0||86||86|
|IIM, Lucknow (1984)||1||0||73||74|
|IIM, Indore (1996)||0||0||88||88|
|IIM, Kozhikode (1996)||1||0||65||66|
|IIM, Shillong (2007)||1||1||20||22|
|IIM, Rohtak (2009)||1||0||13||14|
|IIM, Raipur (2010)||0||0||14||14|
|IIM, Ranchi (2010)||0||0||15||15|
|IIM, Kashipur (2011)||0||0||33||33|
|IIM, Tiruchirapalli (2011)||0||0||19||19|
|IIM, Udaipur (2011)||0||0||32||32|
Source: the Wire
Chart: Total Faculty Break-up of 18 IIMs as per Data Gathered from RTI (2018)
Source: The Print
How Does NOT Having A Faculty from ST/SC Or OBC Categories Affect You?
- Lack of Intellectual Diversity: Did you know the Chevy Nova was Chevrolet’s biggest marketing and sales blunder in Latin America? Do you know why? The story goes, it was because of the name. Nova means “no go” in Spanish. A car named ‘no go’ or ‘does not go’ will not make you jump out of your seat and buy it. If only the planning and marketing team sitting in America had a Spaniard or someone who knew the language on their team. Intellectual diversity in such cases is crucial because it can help the team generate diverse ideas and ad campaigns that engage all kinds of people and not just some groups of society. And that is one of the obvious logics based on which professors like Deepak Malghan (of IIM B) argue for Diversity in institutions. For him, Intellectual Diversity may not always correlate with social diversity (like ethnicity, class, gender, race, etc). Rather, he tells us to focus on the larger picture. Don’t you think a diverse faculty and student body coming from different walks of life will contribute more to your overall learning than top-down classroom learning?
- Missing Role Models: IIMs today are striving to admit a socially diverse class. Every year, IIMs either include more categories, increase eligibility points or introduce scholarships for students from ST/SC and OBC backgrounds. This does help in making IIMs more accessible to people from “other” backgrounds. But what's the point of having a diverse classroom when students from historically underrepresented sections can’t find role models in them? A Dalit student coming from a socially/economically backward background may find it harder to relate with a professor who has never seen poverty or never been discriminated against because of his caste. Why? Because of their life, experiences, and upbringing are different. He/she will more likely get more inspired by a teacher who has gone through a similar experience like his/her and thrived.
- Bias stricken decision-making: Many FMCG companies in India aggressively market their products as vegetarian and even include the green dot symbol, be it cosmetics, clothes, hair products, food, etc. This is done based on the stereotype that “all Indians are vegetarian”. But that is not the case. An SRS survey of 2014 revealed that “71% of the population in India is non-vegetarian and only 28.85% are vegetarian.” Do you know why this stereotype still tends to prevail? It is because people who are calling the shots a.k.a, the decision-makers are mostly from upper-caste and are taught by upper-caste faculty who pass down wisdom that may be true only for their section of the society and not necessarily the entire market. Hence, they continue making decisions based on those realities. This leads to the reconditioning of biases. And that is dangerous for you as a future decision-maker, your business projects and people who will get affected by your decisions.
- Lack of Guidance: As per the quota system SC/STs in IIMs is 22.5% of which only 9 to 16% apply for placements due to various reasons. Even though 9 to 16% who apply for jobs get placed, the salaries are low compared to their ‘general’ category counterparts. Several reasons were quoted for this like - poor academic background, lack of work experience, and first-generation Dalits struggling with English and other communication skills, etc. If only they had ST/SC teachers who could not only sympathise with their situation but have also gone through similar experiences. These professors could provide them with all the help and guidance they need to improve their skills and become industry-ready. There is no doubt these students need to work harder once they make it to campus to compensate for these disadvantages, but professors from similar backgrounds can go a long way in helping them do so.
Why Are There Very Few ST/SC Faculty In IIMs?
There is a direct relationship between the education opportunities that SC/ST and OBC candidates get and their ability to ultimately teach. This means, simply put, since SC/CT and OBC students do not have as many opportunities as general category students to pursue higher education, they are ultimately unable to become professors too. Check out the major reasons as to why there are very few SC/ST faculty at IIMs below:
- ‘No Entry’ In Doctoral Programs: Like all major research institutes, IIMs are both producers and consumers of faculty talent. Nearly a third of all faculty at IIMs receive their doctoral training from the very institutes they are teaching now. However, due to IIM Bill Act, 2017 (which gives full autonomy to IIMs with regards to their administration, recruitment and daily functioning), many IIMs are now thinking of dropping reservations from their doctoral programs. IIM Ahmedabad has already put that plan into action. They came up with an advertisement inviting applications for its doctoral programme and mentioned no provision for reservation of seats for applicants from socially disadvantaged sections. Such actions are not only blatant violated the Reservation Act, but also puts extra hurdles in the path of ST/SC applicants who may aspire to be a faculty of the “prestigious IIMs”.
- Fear of Stigmas: At many public institutions in India (and not just in IIMs), the students and faculty from the “reserved categories” are seen as trespassers, freeloaders and even usurpers. In such an environment, many students and faculty members from ST/SC sections choose to mask their social group identity rather than speaking about it, out in the open.
- Get Trapped In The ‘Merit’ fallacy: IIMs and other institutions of higher learning want to hire professors based on pure merit (quite similar to IIMA as mentioned above). They want someone with intellectual rigour. However, these people fail to understand that the parameters of “merit” are pre-set by a certain group of people (upper caste) who historically have an upper hand over the access to knowledge and resources. The argument of merit in this case, not only negatively affects the decision to become a faculty but also questions their intelligence and experiences.
Recent Development In 2020
A recent development has taken place. All the 20 IIMs have requested the HRD Ministry to exempt them from the reservation policies in the teaching staff. This includes - Scheduled Caste (SC), Scheduled Tribe (ST), Other Backward Classes (OBC) and Economically Weaker Sections (EWS).
Many premier business schools currently don't have reservation policies for teaching positions. The IIMs have been earlier following the 1975 rule of - Department of Personnel & Training that pardons scientific and technical teaching posts from the reservation policy. But the Ministry has ordered the colleges, to provide quota in faculty positions for SC, ST, OBC and EWS candidates.
IIM- Ahmedabad already under the fire, and currently caught in a battle on the issue with the high court. In November 2019, the Human Resource Development Ministry wrote to all institutes to ensure implementation of the Central Educational Institutions Act.
It is to this note, All the 20 IIMs have asked the HRD Ministry to exempt them from implementing reservation policies in the faculty hiring process. B-schools request the ministry to let them adopt a fair recruitment process and give equal opportunities to all, including disadvantaged sections of society.
In an Olympic racing track (which is oval in shape), the one who is on the outer side of the track has to cover more distance than the one who is in the inner side of the track. Hence, different starting points are allotted to the racers in order to give everyone a fair chance.
Similarly, If you are someone who is arguing for an equal opportunity make sure it is not about superficial fairness but a substantial one. What is the point of equal opportunity, if there are people who do not have the means to grab it? Equality in this sense does not mean equal treatment but differential treatment in order to achieve true equality.
People coming from diverse backgrounds give a new perspective to any problem. Therefore, choosing exclusion in the name of merit will only promote mediocrity.