Tuesday, December 8, 2015

My comments on my May 2012 service record & record tampering SSSIHL (Sai university) matter

I felt it appropriate to put up some of my comments in this blog post of mine: http://ravisiyer.blogspot.in/2015/11/my-may-2012-service-record-record.html, as a separate post, and so have copy-pasted those comments below (to see the comments of the other correspondent please visit the afore-mentioned blog post):

Ravi S. Iyer wrote:
Well, what I have realized is that a lot of Sai institutions and service activities are somewhat dictatorial in their mode of functioning. I put out the above blog post as I wanted to document a case of gross power abuse by SSSIHL administrators, and I hope that this documenation will serve to instill FEAR in SSSIHL administrators from indulging in gross abuse of power again.

In your case, it seems to be that as you are a volunteer (like I was a Honorary Staff/Honorary Faculty/Visiting Faculty in SSSIHL), your services can be blocked/terminated without reason and without any notice. It was the same case with me. But in my case they did record tampering and FALSELY SHOWED me as a Teaching Assistant which amounts to DEFAMATION.

I think it is good that you have mentioned these problems you faced. Transparency and accountability are vital for maintaining any service activity like this, in good health over time.

I suggest you forget about SSSVV and move on to other matters (like I have moved on to other stuff besides SSSIHL). Yes, if you feel you would like to document your problems in detail I suggest you could create a blog (if you don't already have one) and put up a blog post on it. The objective of it should be to inform the Sai devotee community and thereby help in prevention of such problems in future for others.

Ravi S. Iyer wrote:
Thanks for your kind words and support. It is lonely when one fights for justice against the system and so such expressions of support are very helpful.

In my SSSVV matter, I saw it as my duty as a teacher (Visiting faculty designation) to provide INTERESTED STUDENTS the opportunity to learn & work on SSSVV software development. The HOD was ORALLY dropping lots of hints and sometimes direct words about his displeasure with me doing my duty. I ignored them as I was serving Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba and not the HOD. The HOD, in my considered opinion, was FAILING in his duty to Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba by opposing INTERESTED STUDENTS getting involved with SSSVV. My interest in SSSVV was not the issue here; it was my DUTY to allow INTERESTED students to associate with SSSVV.

As the issue snowballed after Mahasamadhi in the period Jun to Aug 2011, I mentioned to the dept. faculty group in an email that if the HOD informs me IN WRITING not to allow students to associate with SSSVV, then I would drop it (and inform SSSVV folks of the HOD's instruction). But the HOD did not have the guts to do that. As then he could be pulled up by senior administrators. After all the deemed university was Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning and NOT the HOD's personally owned university.

But he used cunning tactics - what I call Shakuni Poison tactics. He poisoned the mind of the Vice-chancellor, Shashidhar Prasad, against me. Shashidhar Prasad had not interacted with me earlier and so he may have believed the poisonous stories the HOD painted about me. For example, the VC was told that I was CANVASSING for SSSVV, when all I was doing was informing students of the possibility of project work in SSSVV if they are interested. The HOD kept pestering me and finding fault with every single thing related to my work that he could. It was a horrible mental torture period for me.

Now in this situation I did inform Satyajit of the HOD giving me a rough time but he could not help. I am not surprised as after Mahasamadhi, Satyajit himself came under tremendous and very horrible verbal attacks from yellow media. Anyway, SSSVV was an external project. The HOD's Shakuni Poison tactics of targeting me due to my involvement with SSSVV was an internal matter for the university and not for SSSVV project team.

Eventually the thing blew up when the HOD asked me about job prospects related to SSSVV course that I had taught. I wrote to the software development company top person associated with SSSVV about such job prospects, clearly stating that it was a general purpose query (thereby implying that I was not asking for jobs for these students). The HOD raked that up by saying that I committed a big mistake by writing to the software development company man about it. I lost my cool and wrote some mocking email to the HOD. The HOD reacted by sending me an email asking me to stop all work in the dept. except for one M.Tech. CS project student that I was guiding. Now the HOD does not have the power to terminate a Visiting Faculty's services. That power lies with the office that grants permission to accept a Visiting Faculty's services which in this case was the Registrar along with the Director, Prasanthi Nilayam campus. But the HOD thought the dept. was his KINGDOM and committed a breach in academic procedure by writing me (cc to VC and Registrar) stopping me from further Visiting Faculty services (barring the exception of guiding one M.Tech. CS student for his project work).

When I sought an appointment with the VC on this matter he provided it to me. But the first thing the VC did when I entered his chambers was to SHOUT and SCREAM at me as if I had committed some murder!!! Later somebody told me that the HOD, who was/is a very moneyed man and was offering free service like me, had threatened to resign unless I was disciplined. The VC could not afford to lose the HOD at that time. I mean, given a choice between losing the HOD and me, he had to go for retaining the HOD and letting me go. Simple management decision.

However, the way the VC shouted & screamed at me put me off badly. He could have hinted to me that the HOD has threatened to resign; I would have understood and not held anything against the VC. At that time Puttaparthi was going through HELL. 35 Lacs cash seized in some car associated with somebody in the trust in end June 2011 just a couple of days after Yajur Mandir valuables & cash were transparently listed and deposited in a Bank, had refuelled all sorts of rumours about Puttaparthi money matters. When the VC shouted & screamed at me (in end Jul/early Aug 2011) I realized that in such a situation, irrespective of whether I am right or wrong, Bhagavan would expect me to bow down to the VC and cool his temper. The VC shouted at me whether he should call the HOD to his chambers. After seeing his anger I realized that the HOD may have tried his resignation-blackmail tactic (he had tried it successfully in the past to get a non-teaching honorary staff ejected out of the dept.) and so I responded that that was not required and said something on the lines of "I am learning to deal with sensitive zones". The VC cooled down and said something on the lines, "Do you know how many sensitive zones I am dealing with?" Later in that meeting as I had become a quiet mouse the VC hammered me more and said that as Visiting Faculty I should follow everything the HOD says or some words to that effect.

Now the HOD was incompetent and ignorant about software development and so me, being a nearly two decade international software consultant, was SURELY not going to LISTEN to that ignorant & incompetent in software development fellow's instructions. So I had no option but to part ways.

My anger with the VC was the manner in which he dealt with me. He could have simply stated in a cool way that in this dispute between HOD and Visiting Faculty, he has to go with the HOD and that if I cannot get along with the HOD, I would have to look elsewhere for my Seva activity. He need not have screamed at me. He need not have told me in an insulting way that as I was a Visiting Faculty I should listen to everything the HOD says. That's not the way the VC should have treated me who had served DMACS, free of charge, from Jan. 2003 till then (Jul/Aug. 2011). I was one year senior to the HOD in this service stint in the dept. Perhaps the VC did not know too much about me.

Ideally speaking the VC should have taken advise from senior faculty in the campus on the matter. They would have told him about the HOD being power-crazy. Ultimately the power to chastise the HOD was in the VC's hands. The VC seems to have capitulated to the resignation-blackmail threat of the HOD. That may have saved the situation for some time. But then blackmailers are always dangerous for the system. The HOD later (in 2014) was in the list of candidates for Vice-chancellor post to succeed Shashidhar Prasad!!! I got the shock of my life when I came to know that. Fortunately the trustees did not make the BLUNDER of making that HOD Vice-chancellor. But then who knows they might make him Vice-chancellor in the future in which case, I am sure, SSSIHL will land into great trouble.

Anyway, I am out of that mad fellow's control & power. I have documented my experiences including this long comment as information that Sai devotees should know as it is their money contributions, past & present, to the trust, that pays salaries and other expenses of SSSIHL staff. Further, other visiting faculty and even regular faculty should be aware of these kind of nasty politics that some administrators in SSSIHL have indulged in, in the past, and may indulge in, in the future.

Ravi S. Iyer wrote:
Thanks for your encouraging words and prayers. Self-respect and dignity - these are important to retain even when one is serving in Prasanthi Nilayam ashram or other ashram systems. Otherwise some bossy people mistake humble attitude as cowardice and ride all over you. This is my observation and experience in Prasanthi Nilayam ashram system.

See, the HOD got power-crazy. He is a workaholic and was providing free service. Somehow he fell into the trap of superiority complex thinking himself to be far more superior to others. If Swami was in physical form he would NOT have dared to do the actions he did as I would have offered a letter on the matter to Swami at Darshan time. The fear of me doing that would have kept him in check.

But when Swami Mahasamadhi happened there was a HUGE POWER VACUUM and HUGE SPIRITUAL LEADERSHIP VACUUM. Within a matter of months the power equations in the university and other parts of Prasanthi ashram had dramatically changed. Fear of physical form Swami was gone. Now administrators were free to run the show the way THEY WANTED. When Prof. Anilkumar Kamaraju himself got targeted by Shashidhar Prasad and other administrators, who was I? I was a NOBODY who could be just brushed away. If Swami was in physical form Shashidhar Prasad and other administrators could NOT have touched Prof. Anilkumar Kamaraju in any way. Swami gave huge value to Prof. Anilkumar Kamaraju.

About the canvassing for SSSVV part: When the VC made this charge against me in the first of my two nearly one hour meetings I had with him, I was very surprised. Bhagavan Himself had come to SSSIHL PN campus sometime in second half of 2010 and in the physical presence of Bhagavan, Satyajit had spoken about SSSVV and invited/requested interested persons from SSSIHL to associate/contribute to it. Yet, the HOD did not like me associating with it and allowing interested students to participate in it. It was COMPLETELY UNACCEPTABLE BEHAVIOUR from the HOD and he should have been severely reprimanded for it. Instead I was severely reprimanded by the vice-chancellor for refusing to follow Adharmic approach of HOD who wanted me to stay away from SSSVV, and I was penalized for the success of my lab. course on SSSVV!!!

I should also say that the term canvassing seems to be a valid one in academic setup. The VC, who headed Mysore University (2 Lakh students, he told me, if I recall correctly), told me about situations in some university where there was intense competition between professors in a dept. to attract students to their projects. It seems that, at times, professors indulge in canvassing to students to attract them to their projects, and other professors take objection at such canvassing. Finally, in one situation, the VC told me that the students had to choose projects by drawing lots to avoid problems in the dept.

By now the HOD has hopefully learned from this event. But, very unfortunately, Indian academia seems to have many such cases of HOD and other administrators indulging in politics to block people and projects that they do not like. I came to know of that as I read up more about Indian academia and talked to Indian academics for my Indian CS/IT academic reform activism efforts (blog url: http://eklavyasai.blogspot.in/). One of the reasons for me blogging about these matters is to inform interested persons about such problems in Indian academia in general so that the situation can be improved.

Frankly, if I was dependent on some payment from SSSIHL for my living, I would have quietly OBEYED the HOD's hints of not associating with SSSVV, even when it was Bhagavan's PET project. As otherwise I would have lost my living and struggled to make ends meet. By the Grace of God, I was not financially dependent on SSSIHL, and was offering free service. So I decided to follow what I felt Bhagavan would want me to do rather than what the HOD or the VC or the Registrar wanted. And I am glad that I parted ways with SSSIHL in Mar. 2012, even though the parting was painful, as I think I now have been able to provide better service to Bhagavan and His mission of spreading Sathya, Dharma, Shanti & Prema in the world, by operating independent of SSSIHL (and even Sai orgn.), as an individual blogger. Jai Sairam!

Ravi S. Iyer wrote:
Regarding the service record matter I myself had written to the VC when I gave up on the matter (surrendered to Swami's will) in my mail dated May 29th 2012 (included in the post above) as follows:

After deep thought on the matter and some feedback from Puttaparthi Sai community elders/friends I have decided to surrender on this designation and service record matter to Swami's Will.
So, sir, I have decided as follows. I will go by the designations given to me by the Principal, PSN campus, SSSIHL and use that whenever required in my communications with MHRD, AICTE, IIT Madras (NPTEL), international CS/IT academic publications, international academic institutions etc. A TA (Teaching Assistant) designation will be considered to be a very junior designation which may, in all probability, result in almost any academic institution or publication, national or international, treat my views as that of a very junior person. So the only possibility of conflict with SSSIHL I see now is if SSSIHL reports my designation during my years of service at DMACS, SSSIHL as Teaching Assistant to any possible appropriate future requests made to it, say by MHRD, AICTE, international academic institutions etc. I pray earnestly to Bhagavan that such a conflict does not arise.

--- end mail to VC extracts ---

So I forgot about getting any statement/letter from SSSIHL regarding the services I have rendered to it. I am not so bothered about it now as I have all-but retired from software development field even from a free service (Seva) point of view.

Later (perhaps in June/July 2012), I had written to the VC about permission to use student feedback data on the SSSVV Lab. course I had run in SSSIHL in Jun-Jul 2011 in a paper that I was planning to submit to an academic publication, and which the Registrar had refused to provide me (the refusal was in writing) stating that such student feedback data is confidential. The VC's P.A. phoned me about a meeting the VC wanted to have with me in June/July 2012 (if I recall correctly) which, when I asked him about the matter, he said was in relation to this permission to use student feedback letter I had sent to the VC. I told the P.A. that I wanted the VC's response in writing (clearly indicating that I was not interested to meet the VC). I mean, was I mad to go to the VC's chambers again and have him shout & scream at me again!!! There was no written response from the VC to me. Some days later, when I came across the VC's P.A. on the main road in the street outside the ashram, the P.A. (elderly man) looked at me in a very funny and stern way!!! It was as if I had done some crime by refusing to meet the VC and asking the VC (through that P.A.) to send me a written response instead!

Regarding SSSVV being an external project (external to SSSIHL): Well, SSSIHL salaries and expenses are essentially met using SSSCT provided funds. It is OK for SSSCT to suggest SSSVV project as something SSSIHL could consider which is what I think was done.

Let me give some details: I believe, once I had shown interest, to support/encourage me a letter had been written by an SSSCT trustee/top-official to the VC, requesting that I be permitted to get involved with SSSVV, and which, I believe, was well received by the VC. This would have been in June 2011 before the HOD openly fought with me on SSSVV. I think that set the permissions round in SSSIHL with the HOD asking me to give him some formal letter on this matter in June 2011 and then I receiving a copy of the letter from the Registrar on SSSIHL letterhead to the HOD, providing me the requisite permission to interact with SSSVV team as well as the software company team involved with SSSVV software development. There was also an M.Tech. (CS) student who was doing a project about online school knowledge base (Ontology) where he was considering SSSVV as one such example of an online school knowledge base, and to whom I was providing technical consultancy support. Permission was also provided for this student to interact with SSSVV team.

I mean, the HOD probably realized that he could not block me as he would have known about SSSCT letter to VC, and so he had to give in at that time (June 2011).

But later, the HOD got taken aback by the extraordinary success of the two month lab. course on SSSVV that I ran in Jun-Jul 2011 with Satyajit & team also paying us a visit. Something nasty got triggered in him after that and he used nasty tactics to mentally harass me, trap me on something and then throw me out of the dept. by sending me an email with those orders CC to VC and Registrar, which he had no right to do and was a breach of academic procedure. The VC & Registrar kept quiet on it, clearly indicating that they are supportive of the HOD on the matter.

Now the point is, while nobody in SSSIHL, VC or Registrar or other administrators or any other colleagues in my dept. came to my assistance in this matter when the HOD threw me out, could not have SSSVV team and/or some SSSCT trustee/top-official who was aware of this matter, spoken to the VC about it?

Well, in normal circumstances, that is what should have happened. But the time was Jul/Aug 2011 (a few months after Mahasamadhi) when my fight with the HOD peaked, and May/Jun 2012 when I raised my service record request matter (just a year after Mahasamadhi). In Jul/Aug 2011 it was UTTER CHAOS in top echelons of Prasanthi Nilayam setup. We expected govt. to take over SSSCT anyday, anytime. In such a situation just forget about SSSVV team members saying anything about it at all. They just forgot about me and my problems, and focused on other severe problems that they had. The SSSCT trustee/top-official who would have been aware of this matter would also have been engulfed in far more serious matters dealing with keeping Prasanthi Nilayam setup going. So he too, even if he came to know of it, would have decided not to get involved.

In May/Jun 2012 when I raised the service record matter, things had calmed to significant extent. Govt. take-over possibility had diminished. SSSVV team could not interfere with the service record matter as that was an SSSIHL administration issue, and not directly related to SSSVV. But the SSSCT trustee/top-official who would have known about my involvement with SSSVV could certainly have put in a word to the VC (if he came to know about the service record matter). However, I was told that by that time the VC, Shashidhar Prasad, had become KING/DICTATOR of SSSIHL, and believed that Swami was giving dream instructions to Narasimhamurthy in Muddenahalli for Sai mission including SSSIHL, and so was not bothered about SSSCT. SSSCT had enough problems on its own plate even then (mid-2012) to get into a direct confrontation with VC, Shashidhar Prasad, on a small matter of one individual (me) being thrown out and not being given his service record.

Ravi S. Iyer wrote:
I wrote that I retired from software development field including free service teaching of the same and not that I have retired from life altogether :-). Now I have changed my activities to be a writer primarily on spirituality & religion but also on some other matters of human interest. That suits me quite well and also seems to be of benefit to some people on the Internet. I do have some health challenges too which makes it very convenient for me to play this independent writer role away from orgn. politics like the nasty experience I had in SSSIHL which worsened my already fragile health.

I documented my record tampering and service record case via social media posts and comment exchanges (like this one) so that those who are interested to know about such matters can read it (if they know where it is), and take suitable steps to prevent it from happening to them if they get involved in such matters. So, for example, you know now my view of what happened with me in SSSIHL, and as you are in Indian academia (research scholar) you can take suitable precautions to prevent something like that happening to you in your future academic career. I am not interested in fighting for my service record with the MAD administrators of SSSIHL as I have better things to do via my writings on spirituality & religion.

I should also say that the HOD has said Sairam to me a few times when I had the misfortune of coming across him. I simply ignored him. I want to stay away from people like him. I am very happy being out of SSSIHL and working independently as a social media writer on spirituality & religion. Thanks.

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