Why does IIT Madras want to know my religion?

Clarification: My outrage is in the following order: Religion >>> Age >> National Origin > Paper count.

IIT Madras is hiring new faculty. I heard ahead of time that an advertisement was coming out on the 20th and I was eagerly looking forward to see it. What struck me most was how unwelcoming it was.

The advertisement started of inviting “applications from Indian Nationals with an established record …” (emphasis mine). I understand IITs are a government institution, but why restrict faculty positions to citizens. State-run universities in the US allow non-US citizens to work, and the USCIS exempts non-immigrants employed in institutions of higher education from their normal H-1B cap.

The experience asked of Assistant Professor applicants includes “Candidates preferably should be below 35 years of age.” Ageism is institutionalized in India, but shouldn’t institutes of higher learning lead the way in being non-discriminatory? Even IISc’s unofficial recruitment page is explicit in its discrimination. The UT-Austin faculty recruitment website has a simple line that says “The University of Texas at Austin is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer.” Sometime ago, I came across the following statement on D. E. Shaw’s recruitment page (emphasis mine). I would be so happy to work in such a place.

The members of the D. E. Shaw group do not discriminate in employment matters on the basis of sex, race, colour, caste, creed, religion, pregnancy, national origin, age, military service eligibility, veteran status, sexual orientation, marital status, disability, or any other protected class. Note that for us, this is more than just legal boilerplate. We are genuinely committed to these principles, which form an important part of our corporate culture.

Question on publications And, when it comes to the application form itself, I fail to understand the point of filling out an application form with details that are already in one’s CV. What is the point of asking one to fill in the “number” of papers? What does differentiating between “Journal” and “Conference” publications serve? Journals and conferences are valued differently in different areas. Moreover the tier of each conference/journal itself has to be considered. A quote from an article about journals versus conferences in Computer Science.

Some lesser-ranked universities evaluate faculty on the basis of journal publications, because the Dean of Engineering is unable or unwilling to understand computer science. In most scientific fields, journals have higher standards than conferences; computer science is a rare exception. A top-ranked CS department can convince the dean to use the proper evaluation metric. A lower-ranked CS department cannot (the dean may think the department is trying to fool him or her). If you are at one of these universities, you will need to publish in journals, probably by submitting slightly revised versions of your conference papers to journals. The rush for people at lower-ranked universities (some of whom are excellent researchers, and some of whom are not) to submit even marginal results to journals is another regrettable factor that tends to lower the overall quality of journals.

And I don’t know what the difference is between an international and a national venue. After all, the famed AAAI Conference, till a couple of years ago was a national conference. Do national conferences and journals allow papers only from “Indian Nationals” just like IIT Madras itself does?

Question on religion What offended me the most, and prompted this post is the application asking a person’s religion. How is this even remotely connected to making a decision on a candidate’s application? The only connection I can see is discrimination. I have not seen private sector companies or other educational institutions ask this information, so, I don’t think IIT Madras is mandated to collect this information, even for the purpose of collecting statistics.

This application form would have been prepared at the direction of some IIT-M faculty members. After all, they are the people who make decisions and know what information they need to make such a decision. I am surprised they asked for this field to be there, or it was not caught by any one.


18 responses to this post.

  1. I understand the situation but do not condone it. Discrimination on base of Age, Religion and Paper is entirely a matter which can be decided by IIT Madras. Discrimination on the base of Nationality on the other hand is an issue which has to be decided and settled by international organisations.

    IITs also discriminate on the base of age during its student selections also.


  2. > “Discrimination on base of Age, Religion and Paper is entirely a matter which can be decided by IIT Madras.”

    Factually wrong.

    1) Paper count, yes. I wouldn’t call that discrimination.

    2) Age, partly yes. I am not aware of relevant laws in India that afford protection against discrimination based on age.

    3) Religion. No. IITs can’t discriminate on the basis of religion. From the Fundamental Rights affirmed by the Constitution of India. Article 15, section 1.
    > The State shall not discriminate against any citizen on grounds only of religion, race, caste, sex, place of birth or any of them.


  3. Posted by ajesh on August 28, 2010 at 11:36 pm

    When asked about religion in the application form, it is only detail of a person and not a selection criterion. IITM selects people only on merit and skill.

    If it was on religion then the vast and diverse community in IITM would not have existed.

    This is a place that I have seen human values stay over all such discrimination and professionalism engaging people to there on research than in to such unnecessary religious business.

    I am research scholar joined after doing M.Tech here.


    • Thank you for your comment.

      Let me say a few things:

      1) I am not claiming that IITM discriminated. I do not have any evidence. I am asking a rhetorical question “Why would IITM collect information that cannot be used to measure an applicant’s worth and moreover can be used to discriminate?”

      2) “it is only detail of a person and not a selection criterion”. This is an job application form, not a survey. There are so many other “detail[s] of a person” that they could have asked to know about, like who my favorite actor is. The fact that this question was not asked but religion was, says that IITM wants to know the applicant’s religion but does not care to know their favorite actor.

      3) “If it was on religion then the vast and diverse community in IITM would not have existed. ” I can give you numerous documented examples of diverse academic communities that existed in spite of discrimination.

      4) How can you be so sure that some person within IITM would not read that field and consciously or subconsciously filter candidates? I am baffled. I couldn’t be so sure even about myself.


      • Posted by shilpi on September 7, 2010 at 1:09 am

        every form from school to college to university to job ask you full name. you can argue they are using your surname to discriminate, this is bullshit.

        they are collecting just your personal information, what’s wrong with that. the question is do they really discriminate based on these information and the answer is no IIT’s don’t. And if you are not getting a job there that’s because someone better than you is getting that job.


        • A full name is necessary to identify a person. One’s religion is not.

          It is wrong to collection information that they are not using and that can be misused.

          Points 1, 2, and 3 in my previous reply to ajesh apply to your comment. If you want a meaningful discussion, you might want to address these points.

        • Posted by shilpi on September 8, 2010 at 1:04 am

          To answer all your logics/comments or anything you can think of:

          why is this wrong? why collecting the information is wrong?
          is it illegal, is it against the constitution of India. It’s not and even if you think it is, you can challenge it through the judiciary system of India. But for that you need real facts/evidences and strong valid reasoning based on the Constitution of India, and not based on what you can think. The things that can think and will think has already been thought of by smart people in judiciary of India.

          These institutions have made there name with the sheer hardwork of thousands of students, professors and every single member of the IIT staff, no Suriya can challenge that without concrete facts/evidences. hope this makes sense to you

          btw why you disabled the reply link for your comment, what are you afraid of dear?

        • Firstly, I don’t clearly understand what we disagree on, if at all we do. If you can make that clear, I’d appreciate it.

          > why is this wrong? why collecting the information is wrong?”

          > you can challenge it through the judiciary system of India

          As you can see, the farthest my lazy self can go is to post on my blog :)

          I don’t know the law and I don’t know whether or not this is illegal or unconstitutional. Even if that were not the case, even if something is legal that could still be “wrong”.

          Let me take a final shot at convincing you that IITM is wrong in this issue. Let us assume the application form asks questions about a candidate’s private sexual life. I don’t know what your response would be. Most people, I would assume, would agree with me that such a question would be inappropriate. Whether IITM uses that information to make a decision, whether such a question is legal, etc. would be irrelevant. You may still ask “why collecting the information is wrong?” and that is your right. If you do ask, I would strongly disagree with you. IITM has no business to ask about my private sexual life. In the same vein, IITM has no business to ask what my religion is.

          > no Suriya can challenge that without concrete facts/evidences.

          My post is based on a fact that IITM’s application form asks for a candidate’s religion. It is possible that this information could consciously or subconsciously bias someone making a decision and there I object to it being there. Now, you may feel no such risk exists and that is your opinion.

          > btw why you disabled the reply link for your comment, what are you afraid of dear?

          Just like you disabled a reply link for your comment :) I guess WordPress has a reply depth limit.

        • Posted by pradeep on September 13, 2010 at 3:42 am

          With a heavy heart, I am blocking this comment because of over-the-top name calling that adds nothing useful to the discussion. This is the first time I am doing so and I hope this never happens again. I hope this commenter and others follow basic etiquette. -Suriya

  4. Posted by Manish on August 31, 2010 at 5:15 am

    D.E.Shaw is writing it because harassment is very common there.
    and you D.E.Shaw’s agent stop telling a lie. This is the way D.E.Shaw people market. you stop fooling the world.
    I was harrassed here for a year continuously.


    • I don’t appreciate your name calling. You don’t deserve a reply.


      • Posted by Manish on September 7, 2010 at 1:29 am

        I did not ask you anything, what you will reply to.

        let me tell you the real thing now that you write things on your blog without actually knowing the reality. the line you have copied from DE Shaw website or any of their job posting, they have just started writing this from last year not before that and that also was copied from other companies policies. Because last year after horrible one year of harassment/threats, I left this company with clearly telling the management whole year that stop this harassment, so they even started threatening me to not tell anyone bad things about the company.

        So instead of stopping the harassment they started writing these lines everywhere, but that will not make any less harassing company. this is a company where if you will say that you are chutiya, next day they will start saying we are not chutiya.

        fuck u DE Shaw


  5. Posted by pritana on September 1, 2010 at 8:54 pm

    manish can you tell me how is this company overall, i got a call for interview in de shaw
    it might have just happened with you or is it really common there


    • Posted by manish on September 5, 2010 at 3:22 am

      hi pritana

      overall company is average but few groups like QA are just shit due to unqualified sucking managers so you are at their mercy. other groups are good in general as they have good managers/heads.

      quality assurance group: worst (discrimination/harassment is common, illegal/unethical practices with individuals, terrible managers)
      other groups: good
      company: average (good pay, heavy workload, bad work quality, no training, no onsite, bad after career)

      company can’t be good with harassment in any of its group ultimately non-transparent company process/policies leads to these illegal/unethical issues


  6. Posted by kstbh on October 23, 2010 at 6:01 am

    its for statistical purpose….just to keep the record …you complain abt it…but there is no discrimnation based on race/religion


  7. Posted by अहंनास्मि (Ahannāsmi) on April 17, 2012 at 1:58 pm

    I guess even if IITM wanted the information for demographic purposes, they should at least have the decency of making the “religion” section optional. In particular, information being colelcted purely for demographic purposes, and not for use as a selction criterion should clearly be demarcated as such and made optional. Further, they should not be available to the selction commitee, to remove any conscious or sub-conscious influence that information may have on somebody on the committee.

    To some previous commenters: As far as I know, many state boards and government public service commisions in India are so careful about undue sub-consious influences that they do not even allow examiners to see the names of the canddate, and answer books are marked by numbers. If examination board who have to examine lakhs of students can take so much precaution, why can’t IITM?


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