IIM-Calcutta’s 1st Woman Director Resigns Over Dispute With Board

Seth took on the post in November 2018 and quit the post a year before her term was to end on 22 February 2022. 

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Education
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Anju Seth stepped down as a director from the Indian Institute of Management-Calcutta on Monday, 22 March.
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Anju Seth stepped down as director from the Indian Institute of Management-Calcutta on Monday, 22 March, nearly a month after a dispute with the Board of Governors (BoG). Seth submitted her resignation to the Board and the PMO.

Seth cited interference by the chairman, Shrikrishna Kulkarni, whom she accused of maligning her image and also cited breach of government guidelines in hiring personnel, reported the Economic Times.

Seth was the institute’s first woman director who took on the post in November 2018. Her resignation came a year before her term was to end on 22 February 2022. Dean Prashant Mishra has taken over as the acting director, reported The Indian Express.

"We have received Anju Seth's resignation and the Board will be meeting sometime this week to deliberate on the matter,” a member of the board told The Quint.

Seth’s Reason For Leaving

Seth’s resignation letter, which was first reported by Economic Times, claimed that there had been a “breakdown in confidence escalating over the past four months” between Seth and the chairperson of the board.

“The Board chose to draw up various resolutions, alleging vague wrongdoings and condemning me without any evidence thereof, while denying me the opportunity to defend my actions (which were in the best interests of the institute),” the letter read.

Seth claimed in the letter that the institute had become open to several investigations by MoE, CAG, CVC, etc after being plagued by numerous “legacy issues related to lack of transparency or accountability, misuse of public funds, cases of abdication of responsibility, a weak financial situation with little provision for future”.

Seth outlined certain serious academic and personnel issues that had not been addressed, including a curriculum that had not been revised for over decades, wasteful resource management, slow decision-making processes, no Code of Conduct, and lack of commitment to donors.

‘Reform Attempts Obstructed’

In December of 2020, around 61 teachers, that accounts for more than 75 percent of the IIM-Calcutta faculty, had complained against Seth in a letter to Amit Khare, secretary at the Ministry of Education, alleging centralisation of powers by Seth. They alleged that their administrative powers had been taken away and accused her of being discriminatory and having a “narrow vision”.

Responding to the allegations, Seth wrote in her resignation that “attempts at reform have been scuttled by obstructing the functioning of the academic council”.

“Since the commencement of the CVC investigation into the College Builder software-procurement case in mid-2020, there has been an escalation of resistance from some faculty members who wanted to maintain status quo with anonymous and misleading complaints disseminated via leaks to media, and letters to the MoE,” the letter stated.

Seth alleged that the Board had “never taken tough action to address the root of the governance problems at IIM-C” and when “faced with escalation”, the chairperson had allegedly “abdicated responsibility” to support the change that the university needed.

Seth hit out at the chairman stating that, “Instead, you have chosen an appeasement policy with some faculty, rolling back reform attempts and attempting to downplay irregularities uncovered during my tenure”.

Seth concluded the letter stating that the chairman assumed “executive powers to diminish the role of the Director and of the faculty by persistent intervention, although the post of the Chairman is a non-executive part-time role".

The Conflict

Kulkarni, a month ago, as first reported by The Indian Express, had accused Seth of improper conduct, passing a regulation that divested her powers to take disciplinary actions and make personnel appointments.

The BoG also started looking for her replacement, much earlier than the search was due. The IIM Act states that the university must begin the process of finding a replacement nine months before her term ends.

Seth has a doctorate from the University of Michigan and had earlier worked with Virginia Tech, University of Illinois and the University of Houston.

(With inputs from The Indian Express and Economic Times)

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