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  • Caucus The Group Discussion Forum of Hindu College

In Conversation with Dr Patgiri on Indraprastha College’s Recruitment Row


Interviewed by Siddhant Sinha

Dr Rituparna Patgiri is a former professor of Sociology at Indraprastha College for Women in the University of Delhi and a co-founder of Doing Sociology. This interview deals with the furore around the permanent recruitment drive that took place recently at the department.


Siddhant

Serious allegations of impartiality and irregularities have been levelled against the University of Delhi, not just by the faculty at the Indraprastha College for Women but even by others including those at Satyawati College (Evening). You are a part of the founding faculty of the Department of Sociology at IPCW and have dedicated many years to its growth. So can you give us an idea of what the recruitment procedure for permanent faculty is like at Delhi University? Who are there in the panel and what credentials, at least ideally, are considered for the post?


Dr Patgiri

I think that's a very good question to get to know the recruitment process. I've been teaching in Indraprastha College or rather was teaching in Indraprastha College for the past three years. I completed three years in September. As soon as I had finished my PhD, I joined. When the permanent recruitment happens, first, there is an advertisement, which is released by either the college or the constituent department. After that, applications are called. And then screening is done. After that selected number of applicants are called for the interview. If you look at the list of people who have been called for the interviews, across colleges, at the University of Delhi, there are at least 200 to 300 people who are called in a day. You can imagine that if the interview starts at 10, how long does even one candidate get to answer questions, isn't it? And we all know that in subjects like Sociology, you cannot assess someone on the basis of rapid-fire multiple-choice questions, isn't it? So this is one part of it.


Now, in the interview, the selection happens on the basis of your API, which is the Academic Performance Indicator, which is supposed to indicate your contributions towards teaching, research, and then your academic score. So your API is on the basis of these three things. The API is used to shortlist people and after that, the interview has 100 percent marks. This is the problem with the interview process because there is a possibility that there can be biases in the interview. If it's 100 percent, it is obvious that it's not going to be a fair process and there is the possibility of manipulation which has happened. In fact, this is not a new argument, because this argument has been given in JNU long back that why should research scholars be judged only on the basis of the interview. That long-standing demand was actually taken into cognizance and the viva was given 30 marks and the written was given 70 marks to reduce the bias and the way that caste and racism can work out in the interviews.


In the interview process also it's very demoralising sometimes because experts are asking questions about August Comte's full name, about you know, the city that he was born in. Someone was asked about the length of the new education policy and how many pages it is. Believe me, someone was also asked if they knew how many Oria research scholars were there in JNU. So these are very random questions. And I was asked why I don't work on tribals. Now, these are not questions that test sociological ability. It's very random in a way and then the thing is, you may have a chance that you may not know the answer to these questions, which is why then it becomes easier to say that the interview was not right. In IP College, I felt my interview was okay. It was 15 to 20 minutes because they were asking me a lot of questions from the papers that I had taught. I was, I think, able to answer as much as possible. Then they asked me about my contributions to the department and the college. And I have also answered those questions. They also asked me about my last publication, and if I had a research project that I had recently completed. Fortunately, I even had, yes, as an answer to the research project, which is a rarity at a college level and also for an ad hoc. But I said that, yes, I have completed this research project, very recently. And then my last publication was in 2023, in a journal called Sociological Bulletin. And now that I'm wondering, I am actually thinking if they even asked these questions to the other candidates, because those who have been selected, do they have these publications? Do they have those credentials as of 2023? Because when they asked when was your last publication, the indication was that it could not be really late in time. This is how the recruitment happens.


In the panel, there is generally a subject expert, there is a Vice Chancellor's nominee, there's the Principal, there is a Teacher in Charge, or an OSD or an HOD, but because ours was an ad hoc department, we did not have a TIC, which is very important in the context of our department and the happenings. And then there were, I guess, two or three other people. This is the composition.


Siddhant

You mentioned that even the questions asked have a sort of tendency to eliminate people randomly. So does the recruitment process have any mechanism to restrict such biases or blatant favouritism? And you mentioned in one of your tweets that one can check out the profiles of the people recruited and understand why they were chosen in the first place. Moreover, what kind of connection do you think is being utilised here? Do you think they then attempt to paint the university with a certain idea?


Dr Patgiri

I said in one of my tweets that you can check out the profiles of the people who have been recruited to mean that you can check whether they have contributed to the discipline or not. I didn't mean that they have any kind of connection or other things. What I also feel is that, irrespective of ideological leanings, if someone has the qualifications, and the ability to teach, that should not deter them from getting appointed. But my concern is that, is it possible that the five of us had no qualifications and we were really, really unqualified, that we had to be thrown out? Because if you look at the achievements of IP College in the last six years, we have done tremendously well. And this is not something that I'm making up. These are available in the public domain. Ten students had positions in university exams in the last six years. Several students make it to Delhi School of Economics and other universities every year and it's because we have taught them.


I would say that it's not about the others. There were eight positions advertised, so there was a possibility of hiring other qualified teachers as well. But the five of us were equally qualified and deserving and had given blood and sweat to the growth of the department and the college. Because if you're asking these questions about our contributions to the department and the college, then of course, you know, we have done more than the rest.


Siddhant

That was a question in my mind as well and I'm sure that many would have the same question. So moving on to the basic structure of recruitment at Delhi University, correct me if I'm wrong, but the issue of the lack of permanent faculty at the DU has been in use for many years, for over a decade now. So what was the reason behind not recruiting professors on a permanent basis? Does it have to do with the university's finances, or is there an attempt to promote contractual employment? How does the university go about this?


Dr Patgiri

Yeah, I think this is, again, a very important question because it raises larger issues about labour and contracts. So Delhi University for the longest time didn't have recruitment for permanent teachers. And it's not just Delhi University. In many universities, the institutions run on the labour of ad hocs and guests who are appointed contractually. I think it's a very exploitative system also, because you have a threat that your job is going to go away, and you will be on the roads like us. Then you cannot speak up. You cannot really put a lot of effort into anything. Also, when we are asked about whether or not you have been able to do research and things like that, it's not easy if it's a contractual job. Primarily because many places wouldn't even want to give you research grants if you don't have a permanent job. Then your research profile automatically falls.


The second is that we are unable to participate in many decision-making opportunities because of the ad hoc nature of the job. And that is also detrimental to a university. I'm not really sure why recruitment does not happen, because, to be honest, I only started teaching three years back at IP college. But this is a very universal problem and I think it helps the state, and the institutions when labour is precarious because there is always some sort of fear, and hesitation associated with what one can do. One has also heard stories of how ad hoc teachers have been exploited in many colleges. What happens is that they end up doing a lot of their own work plus permanent faculties work. In IP, that was not the case, because all of us were ad hocs and there was a great deal of solidarity and camaraderie amongst all of us. We took our teaching very seriously, we took everything very seriously.


So I would say that the system itself is not conducive for the running of a university, but in the manner in which permanent recruitments have now happened is also very, very murky. You cannot be displacing people who have been teaching in particular places for years. They build their lives and families and, you know, their children around these jobs. So displacement is very hard. I understand that newer people also should be absorbed and given chances, but there have been many positions advertised, so you can definitely take them in those. There's no need to displace the existing ones. I mean, you're not really solving employment, you're creating a different set of unemployed people.


Siddhant

You mentioned that the burden on ad hocs and guest lecturers is rising to a great extent. On the same note, the Delhi University Teachers Association (DUTA) had its election last week where the RSS-backed NDTF's candidate Prof. AK Bhagi was reelected. So what has been the role of the teachers association in this? What stance does it have on the problem?


Dr Patgiri

Even today, I read in a newspaper report that Professor Bhagi, the president of DUTA said that he will try to make it happen or rather absorption happen for all the displaced faculty. But you know, I have a very small plea, and I have been raising this since day one, even when NDTF or other parties have come to campaign to IP. If displacement happens in a subject like sociology, where will you put the displaced faculty? Because there are only 10 colleges that offer this discipline. Where will the five of us be absorbed? Are there enough seats? There are not enough seats, there are not enough vacancies. So then it may work out for larger disciplines like Political Science and Economics, but it doesn't solve our issue. The only colleges that are left to have interviews are maybe three colleges, and they have not advertised these many posts either for our absorption. So it means that we will actually not have a place in DU anymore. It's very, very clear.



Siddhant

The university has seen the dominance of a particular line of thought, among both the student and the teachers. Many claim that there are some discrepancies taking place to favour some with regard to recruitment procedure as well. As someone who has taught at the university for some years and has even been a student here, do you think such claims are correct and is there some sort of academy censorship too, forcing to tow a particular line, and what has been the historicity of this problem?


Dr Patgiri

University spaces have had a great role in be it resisting censorship, or rather, also becoming spaces of such ideological clashes. As we know, be it Gramsci or Althusser, they have spoken about how education is very closely tied to ideology. My only point is, I know that there are certain shifts in ideological practices. But it shouldn't bother people who are committed to teaching, because when we are in classrooms, we are not political beings, we are teachers. Particularly for the five of us, I can say that we have not been part of any political alliance. Although I've studied in JNU, I've never been a member of any political group be it left, centre or right. And then when we are going to the classrooms, we are only talking about what is there in the syllabus, and what is sociologically relevant. So ideology has no role to play.


Also, I think, the best part about a cosmopolitan university space is that you don't really have to think about ideology. Precisely because if the governments change, does it mean that tomorrow, we start attacking people who may have different ideologies from the government that comes into place? It shouldn't be like that, isn't it? We are supposed to be educators, we're supposed to be teachers, who teach both sides of the story, who communicate, as clearly as possible, the fact that education is not, in that sense, rooted only in ideology. I, for instance, refuse to believe that you have to have political affiliations if you have studied in a space like JNU. In fact, a lot of people ask me, how come I do not have political connections, even though I spent so many years in JNU. And I've been very clear that I just wanted to do what I wanted to do. A lot of people may say, it's apolitical. It's not also apolitical, it's just that it's not necessary to be tied to a party in that sense. We don't have to engage in party politics.


Censorship, yes. I feel there is censorship in the classrooms. But it's not just today, it's always been there, in that sense, in multiple ways. And in a subject like Sociology, a lot of censorship happens within ourselves, also, because we are talking about the familiar, and it's not really easy to critique the familiar as you know, Beteille or Berger would say. You're also a Sociology student, so I know you're familiar with these people. So then the question of censorship is also a lot about what kind of trust you have with students and what kind of communication there is. So yeah, that is the story about it.


Siddhant

You talked about the need to have less ideological bias in classrooms, and definitely, not everyone needs to engage in such party politics. So how do you see the growing influence of a particular ideology and the alleged clampdown of all other voices at the university? I mean, even talking about the syllabus of not just sociology, but even beyond, that has been a source of contention for some time now. How do you view these developments and the pursuit of academic dialogue at the university?


Dr Patgiri

Yeah, I think the new education policy just came in. So there was a lot of syllabus revision in this process, and the effects are going to become clearer in the coming years. It's too soon yet because it's not been a lot of time and we're actually thinking how maybe things can be shaped from here. I would say that there are certain subjects in which the revision was much necessary. You know, like the sociology of kinship, I feel that that paper really needed revision. So now there is a paper called ‘Families and Intimacies’ and that's a much better syllabus.


But yes, I have more logistical concerns, which are that the number of hours has been reduced, and the syllabi are vast. So to complete that kind of syllabi in that time is very, very difficult. I'm not really aware of what happens within the steering and the executive committees, because I am not a permanent teacher. And this is what I was saying that, as ad hoc teachers, we were not part of the major decision-making bodies, which is why we wouldn't know what went down there, and what happened there. But when we were having meetings amongst ourselves, we were very free to make a syllabus. As much as possible, there was a concerted effort to include both historical and contemporary texts, keeping in mind all kinds of perspectives. But you should ask this question to people who have been at the decision-making levels, you know, in terms of the steering committee and the executive committee. They'll know more about what happens because the final thing happens there.


Siddhant

Even the credit system has been changed a lot with a lot fewer credits imparted to the core papers. Coming back to the issue of IPCW a bit, with the entire faculty removed, do you all have some way to approach this, to do something regarding the recruitment process?


Dr Patgiri

We are just ad hoc teachers. We actually don't have a lot of power, and now we are displaced. All we can do is talk about the issue like I'm doing to you and actually see what the Delhi University Teachers Association does. Because Professor Bhagi, the President, has said that they'll ensure replacement and you know, recruitment in other colleges, but I'd want to know how that will happen in Sociology. If they do have some concrete steps in mind, we are more than happy to listen and be a part of those decision-making. But at this moment, we are aggrieved primarily because we have lost our livelihood, we have lost our jobs. We don't even know why because if you look at the achievements of the department, I don't think any of us deserve to be treated like this. The action should be taken by DUTA because they are our representatives. We have elections, we vote for them. So it is, in that sense, their responsibility to take it ahead.


Siddhant

I think the amazing work happening at the Department of Sociology at IPCW is visible and Hypatia, the student council has done really well too over the years. Talking a bit about your work at 'Doing Sociology', an independent, women-led platform for democratising Sociological pursuit. You are one of the co-founders there. How is your work there? How do you see Sociology in a more 'away from the class' setting?


Dr Patgiri

In the last few days, there have been a lot of people who have expressed solidarity and love, and they have all said that I deserve better, I deserve more than what has happened here. But my passion has always been for public education. Because I have studied in the best of public universities- Delhi University and Jawaharlal Nehru University. I always wanted to be a teacher. I didn't have any other career options and I didn't even think about them. I was not one of those people who wrote UPSC exams, I was not one of those people who did anything else. I wanted to be an academic and an educator.


Doing Sociology is about our passion for public education. Three of us built the platform. I think that it gives me a lot of freedom, a lot of passion and love for the discipline, which has made me who I am, as a teacher and as a student. This is our contribution or our love back to the discipline and young people because we see that there is a lack or a dearth of e-resources and e-spaces, particularly in the Indian context. You have blogs and platforms outside like LSE Review of Books, LSE South Asia Blog or the Sociological Review Foundation. But there was nothing like Doing Sociology in the Indian context which is why we thought of nurturing young people who would be able to write pieces and express some of their views, academically, because it's not a popular opinion piece platform. It is a proper academic blog and it also brings very seasoned and established academicians like Professor Jodhka or the recent interview with Malini Sur, to people who will then get exposed to their works and might be interested in reading them further. We felt that giving them some audio-visual input could actually create some interest in reading their works as well because you also know that with the new generation, there is a bit of an attention span issue. All of us have so much access to the digital. It's happening to even me, I mean, I can't really blame my students, they are much younger. So it's basically about that passion to do something for public education. Something that it's free of cost because it's a very voluntary, independent women-led initiative.


We don't have any funding, which is why the website domain and everything else is paid for by the three of us, we share the cost. The only thing that bothers me sometimes, or rather disturbs me is when people ask, how much are we paying for the articles and I have to very embarrassingly say that we can't pay because we are non-funded, and it's actually our salaries that pay for this. That's the only bit that hurts me. But apart from that, I think it's something that gives me a lot of joy. Young people should find it in themselves to also be part of these collectives, which give us that community space because if spaces are shrinking, then we do need alternatives, isn't it? For instance, The Probe and Caucus. I'm pretty sure that you thought of coming up with it years back because there was this need for some student-led think tank.


Siddhant

Doing Sociology has done a lot of pioneering work with regard to democratising education. I'm sure many students from other social sciences as well, are very much interested in this kind of work. Thanks a lot, Dr. Patgiti for joining us today. It was a pleasure talking to you.








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