“The offer of resignation by our colleague Prof. Sabyasachi Das and its hasty acceptance by the University has deeply ruptured the faith that we in the faculty of the department of Economics, our colleagues, our students, and well-wishers of Ashoka University everywhere, had reposed in the University’s leadership,” the Department wrote in the letter.
“Prof Das did not violate any accepted norm of academic practice. Academic research is professionally evaluated through a process of peer review. The governing body’s interference in this process to investigate the merits of his recent study constitutes institutional harassment, curtails academic freedom, and forces scholars to operate in an environment of fear. We condemn this in the strongest terms and refuse as a collective to cooperate in any future attempt to evaluate the research of individual economics faculty members by the governing body.”
“The Ashoka Economics department has been painstakingly built into what is widely considered amongt the preeminent economics departments in the country. The actions of the governing body pose an existential threat to the department. It is likely to precipitate an exodus of faculty, and prevent us from attracting new faculty,’’ it added.
The Department letter further said: “We demand that the University must demonstrably reaffirm its commitment to academic freedom by taking the following steps- Unconditionally offer Prof Sabyasachi Das his position at Ashoka, affirm that the governing body will play no role in evaluating faculty research through any Committee or any other structure.”
“Unless these questions regarding basic academic freedoms are resolved before the start of the Monsoon 2023 semester, faculty members of the department will find themselves unable to carry forward their teaching obligations in the spirit of critical enquiry and the fearless pursuit of truth that characterize our classrooms. We urge the governing body to address this immediately, but no later than August 23. Failure to do so will systematically wreck the largest academic department at Ashoka and the very viability of the Ashoka vision,” it said.
Earlier in the day, Ashwini Deshpande, Professor of Economics and Founding Director of Centre for Economic Data and Analysis (CEDA) at Ashoka University, said on X (formerly Twitter): “Our effort was 1: not reach a point where he felt compelled to resign; failing which, 2: persuade University to not accept. This could only be done through internal meetings, not public statements.”
Das resigned from the university after his paper suggesting voter manipulation in 2019 elections sparked a controversy.