TISS director Shalini Bharat: We've committed ourselves to raising more funds
Dr Shalini Bharat, the new director of the Tata Institute of Social Sciences, speaks about changing times and the challenges before it, mainly, a funds crunch
Dr Shalini Bharat, the new director of the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS), is set to make it a global choice as an institute for higher education in the field of social transformation. She is also focused on resolving pending issues, foremost among them being a funds crunch. In an interview with mid-day, Dr Bharat speaks about her 34-year association with the institute, changing times and challenges, and her vision for the coming years.
The past few months have been very difficult for the institute, considering the students' protest. What are your future plans?
The protest prepared us for the kind of challenges that we should be expecting. Some of the problems are because our finances are not in very good shape. The purpose is to bring in security for faculty as well as students. No student should feel that he/she cannot continue education due to a funds crunch. We have committed ourselves to raising more funds so that students who are not in a position to pay for their education, will be able to apply for funds under aid schemes or scholarships or fellowships.
How do you plan to increase the funding for the institute?
Firstly, we will follow-up with the UGC, as we were to get certain funds. Some of our programmes, too, have the capacity to generate funds, as they are targeted at people who are working professionals. There is also an increase in the interest in self-financed courses. Also, we are yet to tap CSR funding, which can be of great help. A corporate house earmarking some percentage of their CSR funding for us would be great. We also look forward to support from alumni.
The students' protests over the GOI-PMS (Government of India-Post-Matric Scholarship Scheme) issue went on for a long time and also had a great impact on the institute. What is the status now of the protest, as well as the inquiries regarding students?
There is no protest by students now. The enquiry committees are about to submit the reports which the registrar is looking into. We have not restricted any student's academics due to this. In case of a specific student who has refused to take his degree the issue is yet to beresolved.
Do you think students' protests have changed over the years?
Whatever happened during this protest was something very new for the institute in its form, nature, size etc. It was something the institute was neither prepared for not could not see coming.
With the changing ways of students, do you think some changes are required in the administration too?
We feel that issues could be discussed across the table. But the protest was completely led and manifested in a different way. We understand that students wanted information regarding the institute. There might have been a gap earlier, regarding information not being available for students. So we have now hired two programme officers, one to work with an SC/ST Cell and another for the equal opportunity cell. These officers have to look at data and numbers consistently to be ready with the information.
Recently, there was a complaint by a former student, about being sexually molested on the campus and how he wasn't able to approach the authorities then as the sexual harassment committees didn't deal with complaints from the LGBTQ community. Do you think this calls for clauses regarding this now?
The student wrote to us just now even though it was an old case. TISS had no role to play in it. While we were the first educational institute in the city to have a gender neutral hostel, there is no way for such a complaint to be ignored by the authorities. The committee already has a very broad mandate to deal with complaints, regardless of the gender of the complainant. The complainant was also aware of the existence of the committee. We don't know why the student did not report to the committee then. Now that the student is no longer with us and the perpetrator is not from the institute, the committee members will certainly support the student in whatever way possible.
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