Pune: High-power committee, ICC look into complaints of sexual harassment at Symbiosis

What began as a case of students listing harassment by other students, later developed into stories of a 'toxic culture' on campus, a kind of behaviour that was normalised.

Written by Alifiya Khan | Pune | Published: October 11, 2018 4:49:50 am
Pune: High-power committee, ICC look into complaints of sexual harassment at Symbiosis SCMC posted an open letter and circulated a Google doc asking alumni to come forward with their complaints.

Following the allegations by scores of students and horrific accounts of sexual harassment and assault faced by girls while studying at the Symbiosis Centre for Media and Communication (SCMC), the Symbiosis University management convened a meeting of a high-power committee on Wednesday. It referred the matter to its Internal Complaints Committee (ICC), which has begun investigation into the allegations of sexual harassment.

Over the last three days, students (mostly alumni) of SCMC have taken to Twitter and Facebook to share detailed accounts of how they were forced to perform sexual acts by their batchmates, in many cases boyfriends, without consent. However, what began as a case of students listing harassment by other students, later developed into stories of a “toxic culture” on campus, a kind of behaviour that was normalised.

Later, they also named two faculty members as being guilty of inappropriate behaviour. Also, a student complained of facing sexual harassment during her internship and not getting support from SCMC despite complaining about it. Students accused Anupam Siddhartha, director, SCMC, of failing to take action in such cases.

On one hand, while SCMC posted an open letter and circulated a Google doc asking alumni to come forward with their complaints, if any, and also suggest improvements for the institute, the Symbiosis University convened a meeting on Wednesday to look into the allegations.

“Initially, in the morning, the high-power committee met and discussed the complaints, which had come out on social media. As per procedure, it was decided that these will be put before the ICC. The ICC has three faculty and three student members, of which one student member and one external expert couldn’t be present. The remaining members of ICC then sat down and read all the posts on social media, which took a long time. Later, the two faculty members who have complaints against them were called in and given a chance to defend themselves. They have been asked to submit a written explanation as per the guidelines of UGC. On Thursday, Anupam Siddhartha will be asked to respond to the allegations. We are also trying to get the students, who made the allegations, to come before the ICC so that both sides are heard and a decision can be reached by them,” said Vidya Yeravdekar, principal director of Symbiosis Society.

Asked what steps the university is taking to prevent such incidents in the future and the safety of students on campus, she said quite a few measures are being contemplated.

“Actually a lot of suggestions have come in from the students as well. One of them, which was thought as extremely important from our end and which they suggested as well, is gender sensitisation for faculty. It is something we keep doing but I think we need to revisit it. Besides, there are a lot of things being considered and the meetings will continue on Thursday after things are finalised,” said Yeravdekar.

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