First, the helpers came to take the washing machines away from the hostels. Things were changing at the Indian Institute of Management in Tiruchirappalli (IIM-T).

Then, there was a series of arbitrary diktats that drastically altered the way IIM-T is governed, claims a recent graduate, requesting anonymity as they didn’t want to publicly speak against the institute. “It’s not about the washing machines. It was the way decisions were being taken.”

The directorship of the institute had just changed hands in 2017, from the founding director Prafulla Agnihotri to a newcomer in the IIM system, Bhimaraya Metri. The institute, by its sixth year, had built up a decent reputation for itself. Its strategy department, in particular, was considered one of the best in the country—good enough to contend with legacy IIMs legacy IIMs Legacy IIMs Legacy IIMs refer to the top three management institutions IIM- Ahmedabad, Calcutta and Bangalore .

And yet, by late-2017, the rules were nothing like legacy IIMs.

Female students, all of a sudden, needed permission to leave their hostels after an imposed “curfew” hour. Students found they had no redressal mechanisms—student body meetings with the administration were suspended. The hostel curfew meant female candidates could only sit for placement interviews in the afternoon. “That was embarrassing for us in front of recruiters. They aren’t going to understand why women can’t sit for placements after dark,” says the student. IIM placement interviews, famously, run late.

Also, Faculty Council meetings went from 30 a year to four, says a current staff member of the institute. While student strength rose from 360 to 492 during Metri’s term, faculty numbers went down from 35 to 32. Members of the IIM-T faculty shot off an anonymous 16-page complaint to the Board of Governors (BOG) accusing Metri of financial impropriety, nepotism, and opaque decision-making, among other complaints. In an email to The Ken, Metri rubbished these allegations as “biased” and “factually incorrect”.

"In the new [IIM-T] campus, a separate laundry facility building provision is there to provide laundry services to the students...washing machines are not needed in hostels. You would appreciate the fact that IIM-T has a world-class infrastructure including hostel facilities where all the rooms are single occupancy with AC"

Bhimaraya Metri, ex-director, IIM-T

Over the last decade, the IIM brand has experienced a massive growth spurt. The first set of eight “first-generation” institutes were developed between 1960 and 2000 (with the exception of IIM Shillong, which was set up in 2007). In comparison, 12 second- and third-generation IIMs were built at a furious pace, between 2011 and 2015.

AUTHOR

Olina Banerji

Based in Delhi, Olina writes about mega-trends in urban mobility, education, skilling and the environment, with a focus on how institutions and innovations can help cities grow sustainably. She is a graduate of the London School of Economics, and has worked previously with India Today and global non-profit Ashoka.

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