The decision of the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) to not renew the contract of a part-time teacher known for her activism has drawn flak from students and professors though TISS has said a fund crunch was the reason. Some students and professors have started an online campaign, calling the TISS decision a move to muffle voices of people on campus — especially those who choose to have an opinion.

Supporters of professor Sanober Keshwaar said what they were really objecting to was the way she was simply sent a message saying her services were no longer required, access to her official email id and telephone were abruptly blocked, and electricity supply to her hostel room was cut off.

The TISS director, Dr S Parasu-raman, told HT that the institute had not renewed services of ad-hoc professors because of a fund crunch. “At the time of hiring of ad-hoc staff, they are already aware of when their service will end and only if a professor’s contract is being renewed will we get in touch with them and inform them about the same. In this particular case, the professor was also irregular so we did not renew her contract,” he said. He denied any knowledge of her official email id being blocked or electricity to her hostel room being cut off.

After repeated attempts to get in touch with professor Keshwaar, she replied with a text message, saying: “What has happened is between the institute and me, and I do not wish to go public with it. Please respect this.”

Her contract was not renewed and no reasons were given. Suddenly her official email id was blocked and she was asked to submit her phone as well. She is one of the few on campus who takes a stand on issues and I believe the institute has not appreciated the same,” said a TISS professor, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

“All she got was a one-liner stating ‘Your services are no longer required’ when she logged on to her computer. That’s brutal and undeserving for a professor of her stature and experience,” added the professor.

Professor Keshwaar joined the institute in 2010 as “‘part-time, temporary staff”’ and though attached to the School of Social Work at TISS, she also coordinated courses for the School of Law. She had at the forefront of various protests alongside students, including the rally that termed Hyderabad University MPhil scholar Rohith Vemula’s suicide institutional murder.

“Professor Keshwaar has been one of the most loved faculty members and has been more of a friend, guide and mentor to us than just a professor. An institute like TISS should have known her worth and appreciated her work, rather than insulting her in this manner,” said a student, and added that they are hoping the management of TISS will reinstate professor Keshwaar. TISS alumni too are drafting a letter to the management, demanding that she be reinstated.