Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Website for new faculty at IISc


An excellent initiative.

The site packs tons of useful stuff that'll make life a lot easier for a new faculty member (or even an old one!). It covers not just the admin stuff, but also the personal / family stuff, with helpful hints and suggestions on life insurance agents, LPG agencies, and even milk and newspaper vendors!

How about 'cultural' matters that are especially relevant to those returning to India after an extended stint in the West? It has them covered too!

Many local culture specific issues that faculty coming back from abroad after a long time may not know.

  1. Address senior faculty (aged above 55, divisional chairmen, associate director, director etc.) as Professor X, unless they tell you otherwise.

  2. Remember no one (faculty or administrative staff) can be fired. Therefore, request people to help you with the purchase, bills etc. Do not tell them it is their duty (it is a sure way for failure).

  3. Some people will ask you personal questions (Why are you not married? You have been in the US but don't drink?). Do not be offended.

  4. Ask senior faculty for advice. Many will be glad to help but will wait till you ask.

Hat tip to my colleague and friend Prof. Giridhar Madras who's one of the faculty volunteers behind the website.

16 Comments:

  1. Giri@iisc said...

    Abi, thank you very much. The local culture specific issues are written by me :-) and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of my coauthors.

    Thanks

    Giridhar

  2. Anonymous said...

    "Address senior faculty (aged above 55, divisional chairmen, associate director, director etc.) as Professor X, unless they tell you otherwise "

    A very annoying concept in Indian academia. It depends on the size of the institute, in smaller institutes the "apparent" hierarchy is less, even grad students can confidently call the senior faculty by name. More than giving an egalitarian feel, the subconscious effect of it is not small. Hope IISc will change, sooner or later.

  3. Abi said...

    @Anon: May I suggest we see the cheeky humour in this set of suggestions on 'cultural' matters.

    There are lots of groups at IISc (and many other places) where things are quite informal and non-hierarchical. And lots of senior professors are perfectly comfortable with first-name level informality.

    That 'advice' (about addressing someone as 'Professor') is essentially about taking a safe, default position when you meet that person for the first time. I think it's a good piece of advice not just at IISc, but everywhere.

  4. Anonymous said...

    Do the external members of a selection committee look at the posible candidate profiles/CV much before the actual committee meeting or do they look at it only on the day of the meeting.
    Please give us glimpses of how the selection comm. functions. What is the role played by the external experts.
    If one candidate is considered by multiple IIXs then how is the scenario handled when faculties from IIT-X (where a cANDIDATE has been offered a job but not accepted yet) is in the selection comm. of IIT-Y of the same candidate. should this not create bias and neutrality issues.

  5. Abi said...

    @Anon (#4): There's no reason to take a grim view of the proceedings of selection committees (and suspect the worst). The external experts in these committees are quite professional (or, in your words, neutral).

    By the same token, it's not a great idea to hide information such as the institutions you have applied to!

  6. Anant said...

    Er, and his/her own identity, anon (#4).

  7. Anonymous said...

    Abi and Anon #4,

    I agree with Abi that there is no reason to take a grim view of the selection committee. But, I think it is also important to point out that the selection/promotion criteria vary a lot among IIXs. I don't know how good is IISC's promotion policy, but there has been too many cases of promotion irregularities in some IITs. I am aware of IIT Guwahati cases (don't ask me for details - if you know someone there ask him/her). The bottom line is even if the decision goes againist you, you can't do much other than waiting for the next interview. External experts may be 'professional' but rarely they go against the director.

  8. rajdeep said...

    I agree that the selection comm. normally agrees with the department and the director of the institute.

    The promotion policies of IISc is entirely different from that of IITs. Look at the website. I do not know who has written it but the promotion policies of both IISc and IITs are well explained there.

  9. Anonymous said...

    No one seems to be focusing on this part: "Remember no one ...can be fired. Therefore, request people to help you ... Do not tell them it is their duty (it is a sure way for failure)." I have multiple decades of IIT experience and I have sort of survived, so I understand the advice above, but rest assured this is the single most obnoxious aspect of work life in IITs or IISc for young, talented, energetic faculty who always want to achieve great things within yesterday. I have seen these type-A personalities completely worn out in a few years by having to plead with fourth-rate people to get a tubelight replaced or to get reimbursed within several weeks! More senior and culturally integrated faculty members must do everything they can to detroy this "rule by the worthless". The amazing thing is, I have seen senile and insecure faculty members actually support worthless staff against these hyper achievers!

  10. AD said...

    Is it obnoxious advice or relevant advice? I feel that it is a relevant advice given to a young faculty. A young faculty can not change the system and thus the advice is valid.

    Regarding senior faculty doing anything relevant, I looked at the profiles of the people who created the website. All of them are below 40 years old. This implies that none of the senior faculty are willing to help even to maintain or add to the website; forget changing the system. Senior faculty like to keep the system like this.

  11. Anonymous said...

    @AD: Who mentioned "obnoxious advice"? Your position is a little garbled through jumbled use of epithets like "obnoxious", "relevant", and "valid". How can "advice" in the current context be "valid" or "obnoxious"? I said the _system_ of having to plead with people who are not doing their jobs is obnoxious. Coming back to topic, senior faculty (and apex decision makers, who tend to be the most obnoxious of the lot) can do as they please, but talented Indians worldwide see this as hammering more nails to the coffin, and they have already spoken with their feet. Despite the economic tsunami engulfing the West, high-quality applications to IIT and IISc have not picked up anywhere near expectations. Add to the above the clueless screwing around of Kapil Sibal and it becomes clear that the relative glory of IITs and IISc is going to fade fast. Indians just don't get how to run institutions beyond individuals and dynasties.

  12. rajdeep said...

    "I have multiple decades of IIT experience and I have sort of survived, so I understand the advice above, but rest assured this is the single most obnoxious aspect of work life in IITs or IISc for young, talented, energetic faculty who always want to achieve great things within yesterday. More senior and culturally integrated faculty members must do everything they can to detroy this "rule by the worthless".

    Having decades of experience in IIT makes you a senior and culturally integrated person. The relevant question is what have you done to change the system other than saying "Indians just don't get how to run institutions beyond individuals and dynasties."

  13. Anonymous said...

    @rajdeep: Typical Indian-speak and knee-jerk reaction to criticism (never answer if the criticism is true, shoot back a "what have _you_ done?" even if the complaint is about missing tube lights). I have done plenty, and some of it is locally recognized, but I can't talk about that without blowing my cover, which I am entitled to. I am sorry to say that the "rule by the worthless" is still the prevalent state of affairs, and my sympathies for young dynamic faculty recruits have not been sufficient to discipline heavily unionized non-academic staff with political power behind them, esp. given I am not a "son of the soil" at the IIT I am in. By now the map is well-known: ethnic/regional integration is very critical to success at IITKGP, IITM and IISc, less so at IITD, IITB or IITK. Rest assured that the lack of support staff who still breathe and good PhD students completely dwarf any other limitations in academic jobs in India. Inter-faculty politics is fiddlesticks in comparison. At least in my IIT, professors are reminding each others of their duties all the time, but no one has the balls to remind non-academic staff what they should do for their jobs. If this is not cacistocracy what is?

  14. Unknown said...

    I am a regular reader of your blog. I thought you may be interested in some of the articles by Prof. Flder. And you may like to comment on the issue of SUPERHUMAN PROFESSOR!
    I have posted the same in the blog of Prof. Madras.

  15. rajdeep said...

    "By now the map is well-known: ethnic/regional integration is very critical to success at IITKGP, IITM and IISc, less so at IITD, IITB or IITK."

    Prof. Abi, is this true in IISc that success there depends on regional integration?

  16. Anonymous said...

    @rajdeep: So now Abi might indignantly retort "Ethnic integration helps get more work out of nonacad staff at IISc? Stuff and nonsense!" --- and you will then use that to discredit the rest of my claims, is that it? See why Indians can debate ad nauseum without a clue how to build institutions?

    I checked out the site linked by Abi. When Stanford interviews and hires X, X knows very well that it is a fantastic privilege to get hired there. But _once_ Stanford takes that step, X really does belong there in his/her own right. Stanford does not say "it's your privilege to be here, don't remind us of our duties toward you". They really make X feel supported and wanted.

    Before I experienced what this can do to people's morale and energy levels, like other silly Indians, I used to look upon this as sahib superficiality. I know better now. We don't know/care squat about the interface between the individual and the institution and how to strengthen the bond while maintaining accountability on both sides.

    People I know at IIXs that really _matter_ in the world research stage are least bothered about first-name last name or promotion bullshit. They do bother that they often lack departmental staff who can navigate importing a diffusion membrane or an FPGA kit on their behalf, so they can spend time in better pursuits.