13 Ad hoc teachers were given termination letters in the middle of the semester in Miranda House on August 29, 2016. The move is being described as an ‘administrative lapse’ by the Principal and has been strongly opposed by the Miranda House Staff Association (MHSA) on the grounds that the teachers were appointed according to the latest ordinances issued by the University and in line with the requirements for the CBCS course framework. DUTA and MHSA held a joint press conference on September 5, 2016 to throw more light on the issue and to convey their strong protest against the sudden, arbitrary retrenchment.
On August 23, the MHSA was informed of the college’s decision to terminate the contracts of 13 Ad hoc teachers across different departments. The move came after an ‘administrative lapse’ was discovered in exceeding the number of teachers that could be hired beyond a second tranche cap. The college had hired 210 teachers but had a cap of 194, making the terminated Ad hocs ‘surpluses’. The departments were asked to make changes to their previously approved workloads in order to terminate the required number of Ad hocs. The changes would have led to an increase in the workloads of all the professors, against the UGC workload norms, and an increase in the size of tutorials, against the CBCS requirements. Many departments refused to make these changes. The matter was also brought up with the Delhi University Teachers Association because of the grave injustice of the move being suggested. A DUTA team met the Principal, Dr. Pratibha Jolly, on August 26, 2016, and requested her to hold a Governing Body meeting before taking any decision.
The matter wasn’t brought up with the University, despite Miranda House being a University-maintained and UGC funded college, neither was a Governing Body meeting called before 13 Ad hoc teachers were handed over termination letters on August 29, 2016 in the Principal’s absence, who left the country one day prior to this and hasn’t been available in college since then. A Delhi University official, on the condition of anonymity, told the Times of India that no one in the University knew about the situation till they read reports about it in the media.
The one-line termination letter offered no reason for the termination and came out of the blue for 13 teachers who had already been teaching in Miranda House for over a month, if not more. The affected teachers were neither given any notice prior to the letter, nor any compensation, monetary or otherwise, of any sort. The move has also disturbed the reservation roster of the college, which needs to be according to the specific reservation requirements per category.
The larger issues at hand:
While the issue of the lives of 13 teachers being toyed with is already grave enough, it has even more implications if we consider the bigger issues that manifested themselves in Miranda House, and how they are going to end up affecting all colleges sooner or later. There is a discrepancy in the cap that colleges are expected to follow according to a 2004 UGC workload guideline and the requirement of teachers according to 2013 university ordinances and the CBCS requirements. The former allows Miranda House to have just 194 teachers whereas according to the latter, the requirement is of 210 teachers. Having followed the CBCS requirements, Miranda House found itself crossing the second tranche cap and decided to terminate 13 Ad hoc contracts, not having hired 3 of the 16 positions they had to fill. In other colleges, the situation has manifested itself in a different way – the required numbers of teachers aren’t hired in the first place and the employed professors are being overworked beyond the workload guidelines.
It needs to be realised that stretching the existing number of teachers thin is not just flouting guidelines but also affecting their quality of work and the education being imparted in some of the top colleges of the country. It also has implications for the credits that students under CBCS are supposed to receive. Under CBCS, an hour of class counts for a credit and there are strict tutorial size requirements as well. With the academic life of the college being disrupted in the middle of the semester, and classes still untaught despite nearly a month and a half of classes, the current situation needs to be understood as a crisis in need of immediate attention.
The MHSA and DUTA are calling for the Governing Body to intervene and hold an emergency meeting to resolve the issue to protect the unfairly terminated teachers. They are asking for all 13 teachers to be reinstated by the college administration. The MHRD also wrote to the college, demanding an explanation for the sudden retrenchment of the teachers and how the college planned to continue regular classes. The college replied that it was going to call a Governing Body meeting soon and is trying to look for a solution. Meanwhile, the 13 Ad hoc teachers remain vulnerable, their classes untaught and the Principal still unavailable.
DU Beat met two of the 13 affected teachers during the Press Conference to ask what they were planning to do about the issue at their own level. The teachers, for the time being, have put their trust in the MHSA and DUTA to protest on their behalf and protect their interests.
The situation in Miranda House has exposed several issues in the functioning of the University, and the general attitude towards Ad hoc teachers,who are often treated as second-class citizens in their own workplaces and are overworked and undercompensated. DU Beat stands in solidarity with the MHSA, DUTA, and the Ad hoc teachers’ community of Delhi University.
Feature image: Daily Mail