MSSW faculty member alleges unfair termination, petitions Higher Education Department

Institution denies charges, says termination was based on appraisal process

May 25, 2021 12:16 pm | Updated 12:16 pm IST - CHENNAI

A view of Madras School Of Social Work. Photograph used for representational purposes only

A view of Madras School Of Social Work. Photograph used for representational purposes only

An assistant professor with the Madras School of Social Work (MSSW), a well-known institution in Chennai, has complained to the Higher Education Department claiming that he was unfairly and summarily terminated earlier this month after he raised concerns internally about the institute’s handling of the National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC) accreditation process. He was working in the institution since 2016.

However, the college has denied his charges and said he was sacked based on an appraisal process over the past four years.

R.G. Sudharson, the faculty member with the institute’s postgraduate department of development management, has also written to the Director of Collegiate Education seeking recourse.

More than 50 students from the department have jointly and individually emailed the administration, questioning the termination.

Mr. Sudharson took issue with the institute’s assertion that his unsatisfactory performance was the reason for termination. “They carefully said in the termination letter that I was ‘personally’ instructed many times to mend my ways, which never happened. They used the word personally as they know that no proof exists for any such feedback through formal channels,” he claimed.

Acknowledging that he was asked in the past about a delay in enrolling for a Ph.D. programme, he said that he had assured the institute that he would be enrolling in the coming academic year. He also questioned the urgency to terminate him during the pandemic when the Union government has asked to avoid terminations.

NAAC process

According to Mr Sudharson, in an internal WhatsApp group with some faculty members, he had raised concerns about presenting data that did not reflect reality, to obtain better NAAC grades and had appealed for collectively taking this up with the management for a transparent discussion.

“The Principal was not on this group, but someone forwarded it to him. The next day, I was summoned and a discussion ensued, following which I was asked to resign the same day. But I refused,” he said.

Around a month later, on May 8, the last working day of the semester, he was summoned and issued with the termination letter without any enquiry, he alleged.

Institution denies allegation

S. Raja Samuel, principal, MSSW, denied all allegations and said Mr. Sudharson was dismissed after a process only due to his performance, based on feedback from students, faculty and parents.

“Over the past four years, we have regularly provided feedback pointing out concerns through the formal appraisal process. Till date, he has not enrolled for a Ph.D. Despite being in postgraduate department, he has not published a single research paper,” he said.

Regarding the concerns raised about NAAC, he said MSSW followed absolute transparency and integrity in the process. “When I replied to the points he raised, he had no defence,” he claimed, adding that the institute actively encouraged faculty members to raise concerns about any issues they faced.

No complaints, some students say

A few students The Hindu spoke to said they had no complaints about Mr. Sudharson. “He encouraged discussion and critical thinking in classrooms,” a second-year student said.

“He was our go-to person. For instance, when we wanted to organise a protest in the campus against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), he helped us,” a first-year student said.

Mr. Sudharson himself took part in the anti-CAA protests elsewhere. On whether such activism proved problematic, he said although he heard from colleagues that the administration was not pleased, he was never confronted directly.

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