In slightly over a year since the inception of the Rajiv Gandhi Indian Institute of Management (RGIIM) in July 2008, nearly half the 13-strong faculty have left following differences with the institute's Director Ashoke Dutta.
Better known as IIM-Shillong, for which the Meghalaya government provided 120 acres of land free, this is the seventh IIM to be set up and has 128 students.
The discontent over the exits, at a time when all IIMs face an acute faculty crunch, is threatening to snowball into a major issue, say sources from the institute. They allege that the "autocratic management style at the top has come as a shock to many who were used to the usual IIM tradition of deciding everything through review committees".
The faculty, the sources added, have either resigned or have been asked to leave for dissenting with Dutta's style.
"An IIM functions on a committee-based system. We are seeing for the first time so much interference in each decision. The usual process followed in appointments at the IIMs is disregarded in some cases," alleged a source who has worked with another leading IIM before coming to Shillong.
Another reputed professor claims he was "shown the door without a proper explanation just 10 months after joining". "The institute is nothing like an IIM," claims the professor who has since joined a private institute.
A board member admitted: “One of the faculty members had circulated an email among the board and faculty members, protesting against the termination letter handed over to him without giving him a reason. However, nothing has been done in this matter, though it was brought to the notice of the secretary of the ministry of human resource development.”
The institute's director and other board members, however, have a different view of the events. Asked about these allegations, Dutta said, “This is all false. Shillong is a tough place to be in and I have been successful in getting the campus up and running in just two months. We have a faculty sanction strength of 10, while we have had 13 faculty members on campus. I am aware of the mail being circulated by some disgruntled professors. While one has been sacked, the others left for greener pastures.”
R N Datta, chairman of the board of governors of RGIIM, concurred: “We are aware of this issue that has been doing the rounds. The faculty members have represented to the board in writing that they support the director in all his endeavours.”
However, a faculty member at the institute countered that no such representation has been sent to the board and the director’s leadership remains an issue. “This is a new IIM and the officials appointed by the government do not have any experience handling the IIMs. Localisation has also been an issue, considering that the north-east is a sensitive area.”
Rashmi Bansal, an alumnus of IIM Ahmedabad and founder of JAM magazine — which has been vocal against the functioning of the institute — said: “At a time when the government is planning to set up new IIMs, it raises important issues of academic standards, governance and accountability of new institutions toward their stakeholders. All IIMs should follow a similar pattern to maintain its brand value.”
She added that she has sent a questionnaire to the ministry on the discrepancies in the institute but has not received a timeframe for any response.