Friday, June 11, 2010

Did IIT-Hyderabad sack Prof. Ashley Tellis because of his gay activism?


In a ToI story, Nikhila Henry mounts a strong case by citing a variety of sources; but the key actors in the story -- the director, registrar, department chairman, or Prof. Tellis himself -- haven't yet made a public statement.

He faced strong resistance at IIT-H from the day he joined. "Ashley's entry was controversial with several groups among IIT faculty not wanting him in. There was internal bickering and resistance right from the beginning," said a source. Prior to Tellis's appointment, several faculty members had objected to his appointment.

"There were group mails sent against his appointment, asking the IIT director not to appoint him," a source said.

Some faculty members blamed Tellis for being too candid in discussing gay issues on campus. His article on `man-boy' love in a national daily further ruffled feathers. "The institute has a humanities wing but it is meant for technical education. It was found that students were extremely annoyed with Tellis's behaviour," said a faculty member.

However, a number of students disagreed with the faculty members. "He was one of the best teachers. Not many students had problems with him until the administration and other faculty members began asking questions about Tellis's behaviour in classroom," said a student. Students were even told to "be careful" with Tellis and "report abuse", the student said.

12 Comments:

  1. odbhut said...

    I am not surprised, IITs are not 'liberal' enough to have a gay faculty member. Couple of years back in IIT Guwahati, the director threatened a faculty member for having an extra-marital affair (heterosexual) by saying that he will not be promoted (it is not that I am in favour of extra-marital affairs but the question is whether the institute can dictate its faculty member's personal life).

    As far as I know in the probation period, one can be sacked without citing any reason. So, IIT-H can easily defend itself. A sad day for India.

  2. chitta said...

    I don't think he was sacked for being gay. He was openly gay and the article suggests the authorities at IIT-H knew about it when they hired him. So "gayness" is not the reason he was fired.

    One must read his article at http://expressbuzz.com/voices/man-boy-love-could-be-a-beautiful-thing/124436.html and also his comments . That may give an idea on why IIT-H may have sacked him.

  3. chitta said...

    In a February 2010 interview at http://schoolofeducators.com/2010/02/volume-3-month-2-day-26-an-interview-with-dr-ashley-tellis/ he says:

    "As I said, I chose to stay in academia because of students. However, I am now contemplating leaving the University and academic institutions forever. I will not cease to be an academic. I love academic work and will always do it but I am not sure I want to be in a University/Institute any more. These places kill all the real enjoyment of education."

  4. Rahul Siddharthan said...

    I don't know what went on at IIT, but I agree with chitta. Please read that article by Tellis before making up your mind. This is not about gay rights. It is about paedophilia. When gay rights activists, all over the world, are struggling to remove conservative conceptions that gays are sexual perverts, Mr Tellis says "homosexuality may sometimes have a lot to do with paedophilia, and, further, that if it is based on mutual consent, it is no big deal."

    Elsewhere he glories in his own paedophile activities with a Nepali boy: the article used to be here but seems to be gone now.

    A man who thinks paedophilia is "no big deal" should not be teaching undergraduates: I wouldn't want my son in his class. A man who has admitted to paedophilia should be in jail. And portraying this as a case of victimisation of gays does no service to the gay rights cause, and indeed, could do a great deal of damage by reinforcing negative (and, in the vast majority of cases, false) public stereotypes of gays.

  5. Rahul Siddharthan said...

    corrected link: this.

  6. happy-scientist said...

    Thanks Chitta and Rahul. I was fuming yesterday after reading the TOI news, and was thinking that this was a replay of the sordid AMU episode. However, this article by Tellis puts things in a 'better' perspective.

  7. vishnu gupta said...

    Well, the IIT administration reserves the right to sack anyone and I don't think needs to do a lot of explaining in this case.I think the Tellis guy was amazingly ignorant and arrogant and also has some sick ideas in his brain. The best part was the insti asking the students to "be careful" :)(priceless:)I'm not suprised the institute saked him(The article may or may not have been the reason).

  8. karatalaamalaka said...

    @Rahul Siddharthan I guess he is allowed to write such an article under freedom of speech (and academic freedom). Of all types of establishments, academia should be the last to take an action against someone who only exercised his freedom of speech.

  9. gautam said...

    This is a reaction to "odbhut"'s allegation about IITG. I am the Director of IITG for the last 7 years. I did not threaten any faculty member of not promoting him (her?) for having an extra-marital affair. What is he (she?) talking about? In any case, it has nothing to do with the current topic. Sling mud. Some will stick, one hopes. Tell us your name Odbhut (if you have the courage to do so), and be specific about your allegations..

    Gautam Barua
    Director IIT Guwahati.

  10. odbhut said...

    Sorry to bother you all but I must respond to the iitg director. And this is not totally irrelevant to the present topic. The issue is whether an institute can dictate the personal life of its employees.


    Well, I should have written that this is an allegation, since there is no written proof (unlike the cases in the same institute where the director sent insulting e-mails to the faculty members with copies to all). I do apologize for this.

    The story goes like this (I cannot write the names - this is well known in this campus).
    The extra-marital affair was between two faculty members. There was a meeting with director, DOFA, the two faculty members and spouse of one of the faculty members. The 'allegation of threatening' came out from some of the persons attended the meeting. Of course it cannot be proved. However, since the meeting was held, it is clearly interference of the institute in the personal life of the faculty members.

    I am sure it happens in other places as well in India and only extreme cases are reported in newspapers.

    two more points:

    (1) If the director denies that the meeting was held, I won't respond. If anybody has contacts in that place can find it out independently.

    (2) No, I don't have the courage to use my real name. However, when the iit director doesn't have courage to tell the truth, who cares about my courage.

  11. Eternal Wanderer said...

    "Odbhut"... You have lost it here. You cannot make any baseless allegations against someone and that too against Prof. Barua. We all know him very well, and he is a gentleman.
    You are saying that you cannot take names and you have no proof and yes you are indulging in mud slinging.
    I have contacts at IITG and I don't know of any such case. So either divulge the details or stop making such baseless allegations.

  12. Ketan said...

    Nanopolitan,

    I don't think the ToI article provides any clues so as to speculate one way or the other. I find that the ToI article has been written very cleverly so as to make us believe that he was sacked because of being gay, but certainly, we do not know if that is for a fact.

    karatalaamalaka above cites freedom of expression, but I do not think such freedom comes without liabilities, especially if one spreads misinformation and suppresses significant information on a subject, in a public forum (viz., Indian express) that has legal liabilities attached.