A University in India Reexamines Its Relationship With IBM
By MARTHA ANN OVERLAND
One of India's most prestigious universities may ask the International Business Machines Corporation to leave its campus.
I.B.M., which operates a research-and-development center on the Delhi campus of the Indian Institute of Technology, has
been a source of controversy ever since the center was established two years ago. Some faculty members believe that the
corporation's presence is incompatible with academic standards.
The pairing between I.B.M. and the institute was designed to foster technical collaboration between the industry and academe.
It was also seen as a way for the institute to generate revenue. I.B.M. reportedly pays the school $444,000 a year for the
offices that house its 50 researchers.
But at an August 8 meeting of the institute's senate, faculty members complained that the center puts heavy loads on the
institute's infrastructure while offering only minimal interaction between I.B.M. researchers and professors, according to reports
in the Indian press.
Critics also say the company is exploiting the best students for its own research. The critics charge that the center is mostly
interested in recruitment.
A spokesman for I.B.M. denied that there is any friction with the institute. "Our relationship with I.I.T. has been excellent," said
the spokesman, Kithane Narahari. "We offer the students scholarships. We have a lot of programs where professors come and
work in the labs. Some of our researchers go over and conduct lectures. There is a lot of two-way interaction."
Asked about faculty members who are unhappy with I.B.M.'s presence on campus, Mr. Narahari said: "We don't know who
those people are. We have no comment on that."
"It's a good partnership," said Avtar S. Malhotra, the institute's registrar, who disputed reports in the Indian press on Thursday
that the Senate had already asked I.B.M. to leave.
"I.B.M.'s relationship to the campus is as an incubation research-and-development center," Mr. Malhotra said. "There is a
good amount of interaction between the faculty of the institution and the students. There is no commercial activity going on.
They are working on developing technology."
He did acknowledge that some people were unhappy with the corporation's presence. "We have 400 or 500 faculty members.
Who can say about every person? But the people in [computer science] are happy," he said.
One faculty member in the institute's computer-science division said a committee would be appointed to decide whether private
companies should continue to operate on campus. No date has been set for a decision about the I.B.M. center.